PSA: Try an EQ pedal in front of your amp before buying new pickups...

Discussion in 'Pickups, Electronics & General Tech' started by KailM, Oct 1, 2017.

  1. KailM

    KailM SS.org Regular

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    Just wanted to share an experience I had today with y'all. Just to put a disclaimer up front, I'm an EQ fanatic. I've been running an MXR 10-band in the loop for a lot of years. It has helped me sculpt "my" tone and probably saved me a lot of money in amp-whoring. I bought a second MXR last year and mostly just used it with my other amp's effects loop.

    Well, today I tried it in front of my 6505 (with my usual 10-band in the loop as well). I wanted to see if I could dial in something even better with my SD Nazgul equipped guitar. While I love that pickup, it can be a little too tight/trimmed in the low end at times. It can also sound a little metallic if you attack the strings a certain way.

    Basically, I set the up-front EQ to coaxe a little more bottom-end out of the pickup (I boosted 125hz about 3db). Secondly, I placed a slight cut at 1khz to soften that metallic/nasal sound a hair, and boosted 2khz a bit as well for more grind.

    The result was mind-blowing. Like, unimaginably f--ing brutal. It still has all the best parts I like about the Nazgul, but now palm mutes hit you in the chest like a runaway dump truck, and the mids are richer/grindier. I always liked my Black Winter equipped guitar a little better because it already kind of sounded like this, but I may have surpassed that tone today. Gonna have to give it a go with that guitar tomorrow, hehe.

    The point is, lots of us spend a ton of money swapping and trying pickups, since the only way to truly know if you'll like a pickup is to try it at home through your own rig. Gets expensive and time-consuming. With my EQ up front, I was able to very noticeably change the character of the Nazgul without even getting too crazy with the settings. I think I could probably get a less-favorable pickup up to my satisfaction as well. Anyway, sorry if this is old news to you guys, but it was very eye-opening to me.

    TL/DR: If you've got a pickup(s) that you're kind of "on the fence" with, consider trying an EQ in front of the amp-- you might find them to be perfect pickups afterward.
     
    Last edited: Oct 1, 2017
  2. elkoki

    elkoki SS.org Regular

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    I should get myself an eq pedal...But I think even a good OD pedal in front of the amp can get a similar result.

    I have made the mistake of changing out the pickups too often when I didn't like my tone. Recently I re-discovered that putting a well dialed overdrive pedal in front of the amp makes the amp so much fucking better.. It tightens up the low end so much and makes the overall sound so much more brutal. I was tuning down all the way to G# and it sounded awesome. With out the overdrive it's just not as clear or percussive. Little things can make a huge difference.
     
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  3. KailM

    KailM SS.org Regular

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    I agree that the right OD can be enough in most cases. I have an MXR M77 which has control over 100hz as well as the standard "tone" knob that all ODs have. I was using that to dial in just a little more bass with my Nazgul pickup, but it just wasn't quite the same. The new tone I'm getting by dialing-in a slightly higher bass (125hz) is clearer than adding 100hz. It's like I can add thump, but it doesn't seem to get muddy at all. I think that having control over the mids shaping is awesome as well.

    I think a lot of people are hesitant to run so many pedals just to get the tone they want -- but man, that extra EQ in the rig has turned out to be the icing on the cake.
     
  4. TedEH

    TedEH Cromulent

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    I think I'm one of those people, I run 0 pedals most of the time, unless I really have to. I'm a big fan of having everything you need in the amp itself if at all possible- amps that separate the pre-and-post EQ make life a lot easier. I tend to think the same way about pickups- sure, you could use an eq pedal to navigate around the strengths and weaknesses of the particular guitar and pickups, but I'd rather the instrument just sound good without having to layer eqs all over the place. Just my :2c: though. Arguably, as long as you make it where you wanted to go sonically, it's all good.
     
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  5. LiveOVErdrive

    LiveOVErdrive SS.org Regular

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    My ideal setup is pretty much a flat pickup with a graphic eq before and after the preamp. It is fiddly but you can do ANYTHING with it. But you have to like tweaking.

    If you want to just fool around with an eq, pick up a behringer one. They're cheap and they work well. A little noisy but oh well. it's a low cost of investment to try it out.
     
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  6. KnightBrolaire

    KnightBrolaire tinkerer/aspiring builder/8 string hoarder

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    I could see how running a 10 band eq can mitigate the nastiness of certain pickups (like the juggernauts cocked wah voicing or the metallic clanging of the nazgul) to an extent but some pickups like the aftermath for example, the clanking mids are really difficult to remove. Some pickups just don't play nice with my setup and I'm sure that happens for other people as well. The nazgul for example really needs a darker setup to shine since it balances the harshness. It worked well through my boogie/kemper, but I prefer the omega I installed since it has a snarly voicing that just pairs so well with my rig. I also ran into this problem with the lace x-bars where they need a lot more gain to saturate/ they had too round of a low end for my tastes and no amount of eqing could remove the high end fizz they have. I like swapping pickups since the only good way to figure out if something clicks with your rig is to actually run it in your rig (either through a kind soul giving you a DI or buying the pickup) plus I get to try combinations that I wouldn't otherwise. I never would have learned that the black dog and cold sweat neck sound awesome together (same with a lot of other pickup combos), or that guitarmory and elysian make great sounding pickups.
     
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  7. KailM

    KailM SS.org Regular

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    I can definitely understand where you're coming from with all this. I've even thought to myself-- gee, isn't this a little ridiculous running two EQs plus an OD that has EQ tweaking abilities? But, I liked my amp tone even before any pedals, but to my ears it's just gotten better and better with each addition to my pedalboard. So I guess for me at least, there's no downside to the pedals, other than my pedalboard is heavy.:cheers:
     
  8. lewis

    lewis SS.org Regular

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    the OP makes a good point tbh.

    it does get to a point where pickups tonally, being different from each other, is just a matter of EQ.

    Some "Feel" different, and thats a whole different situation. Like Active vs Passive, but in just changing the EQ of a pickups sound, yeah a pedal makes more sense.
    (Or the same EQ adjustments on a modeller etc.)
     
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  9. GraemeH

    GraemeH SS.org Regular

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    I'd suggest a 3 band parametric EQ over a 10 band graphic EQ for guitar though, being able to dial in the exact frequency to manipulate (and the Q) is more useful than having more frequencies that aren't exactly where you want to adjust.
    Mine is always at the end of the loop before the amp return.
     
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  10. KailM

    KailM SS.org Regular

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    In this case, even the 'feel' has changed by tweaking the pre-amp EQ. It's possible that this is an illusion, but last night I was playing with it again and it certainly felt like there was more sag in the response, with a noticeable "bloom" in the low-end and low mids. I tried the same setup and settings with my Black Winter-equipped guitar and didn't like it as much -- that guitar sounds perfect without the pre-EQ added, to my ears. But it's possible I could tweak that one differently and get something I like a little better. With the Nazgul though, this is the way I'll run it from now on. I'll see if I can get a recording for you guys of the EQ on vs. off.
     
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  11. lewis

    lewis SS.org Regular

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    yeah good call.
    Would be interested to try as my Jackson with Nazguls sounded really bad to my ears. Would be up for trying it with your EQ adjustments pre-amp. (I have the GE7)
     
  12. elkoki

    elkoki SS.org Regular

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    So you don't even use an overdrive as a slight boost? Tons of metal guitarist at least uses an overdrive. I'm not a big fan of pedals as well unless i'm doing ambient music or something similar. Typically I just use and overdrive and a delay for solos.
     
  13. TedEH

    TedEH Cromulent

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    Nope. I used to use a tubescreamer with an old Traynor amp. Then I switched to a TC Spark. Then I bought a Mark IV and stopped using the boost altogether. It really doesn't need it. I personally don't like having too much of that grindy mid spike thing all the time, and some amps are tight enough sounding on their own. The idea that every amp needs a boost to "sound metal" just isn't true.
     
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  14. KailM

    KailM SS.org Regular

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    Yep, a little cut (like no more than 1db) to the 1.5khz band will definitely tame some of the metallic/harsh pick attack. In my mahogany guitar it was never that bad, but I definitely like what I'm hearing better now that it's softened a hair. Try boosting your 100hz slider just a bit as well. It adds some thickness that isn't quite there without it. It's easy to overdo it though.
     
  15. elkoki

    elkoki SS.org Regular

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    Well I didn't say that all amplifiers NEEDS an OD to sound metal. There's tons of metal amps out their with tons of gain. But IMO they can sound better with an OD in front of it. That's just my opinion , it really just depends on what sound you're after and what style you play . Rob Barret from Cannibal Corpse tunes to G# and uses overdrives with his Mesa Boogie (triple rec I think ?) and his sound is fucking massive. Misha also uses od's with his new Peavey lol... Just depends on taste and what you're after.



     
  16. TedEH

    TedEH Cromulent

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    A boost is not about "getting more gain", it's about shaping your signal before it hits the gain stages of the amp and/or increasing the level going into the preamp. A Mark IV and a Recto are very different amps- with a Recto, I'd use a boost. With a Mark, it's overkill for the sounds I like- with these in particular, you already have tone-shaping before you hit the gain stages, because of where the tone knobs are placed in the circuit. My understanding is that recto tone stack is post-gain, but on a Mark it's pre-gain (and you do your post-gain eq with the GEQ sliders). Like I said, it's a lot of what I like about these particular amps - you can do all your post- and pre- shaping without a bunch of pedals, it's just build into how the amp was designed.
     
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  17. KailM

    KailM SS.org Regular

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    Agreed that not all high gain amps need a boost. And I have to say, I sort of even think the term "boost" is a misnomer, because that's not the primary function it's usually serving in most metal applications. I know with my 6505, it's mostly for the EQ shaping and extra compression; I turn the amp gain way down because everyone knows all 5150 variants have entirely more gain than anyone could ever use.

    I've also found that the OD pedal helps the low volume tone. I can get my 6505 to tighten up with a different approach to EQng and not boosting it, but at that point it's also got to be really loud. With the boost, I get great tone at any volume.

    I've played some amps that didn't need it though, for sure. EVH 5153, for one. And of course, the Mesa Mark series. Essentially, I'm doing externally what the Marks have as built-in features.
     
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  18. elkoki

    elkoki SS.org Regular

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    I don't see anywhere where I said it was for getting more gain... I just said certain amps sound better with an OD infront of the amp.. At least in my opinion and what I look for in certain situations
     
  19. TedEH

    TedEH Cromulent

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    I literally quoted the line where you brought the amount of gain an amp has into the conversation.

    Either way, it's just a different way of looking at things - I appreciate the value of a boost, but prefer amps that don't need them. IMO adding one when it's not needed can trash an otherwise good sound, just as often as adding one when appropriate can turn an ok sound into a great sound.
     
  20. Lemonbaby

    Lemonbaby SS.org Regular

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    Makes total sense at first glance, as the signal will have less "power" as the lower frequencies are driving more current. However, the EQ itself has an output buffer which makes your amp's preamp receive a low-impedance signal instead of passive PUs. This obviously changes the behaviour of the gain stage in many circuit designs (some more, some less). Only adding the buffer without even tweaking the EQ will often have an audible (or significant) impact on the sound.
     

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