What does an overdrive do and do I need another one?

Discussion in 'Gear & Equipment' started by gnoll, Oct 12, 2018.

  1. gnoll

    gnoll SS.org Regular

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    Hey!

    I've been thinking about overdrives today.

    What does an overdrive actually "do"? I have a Maxon od808 that I like to boost my Peavey 5150 with, because it makes the 5150 tighter and more awesome. But all I know about what it actually does is that it supposedly boosts the signal before it hits the front of the amp and cuts lows and adds a mid hump? But what does this "boosting" of the signal actually "do"? Like, how does that work and more importantly, why is it good?

    Say that I was to use a boost that doesn't have the eq characteristics of the od808, but is more neutral and "just" boosts the signal without much other coloration of the sound. What would happen? Would that also make the sound tighter and better, or would it just add gain? I'm very curious about trying a Klon style pedal like the EHX soul food, to potentially get the benefit of a boost without the eq coloration of the od808. But maybe it's a waste of money? Maybe the eq is what I like about the od808? Something tells me this isn't the case though, because I cannot replicate the awesome sound of the od808 by dialling less lows and more mids and gain on the 5150, and that very thing eq wise (more mids and less lows) is not generally something that sounds good to me. But still, the od808 does sound good...
     
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  2. FitRocker33

    FitRocker33 My tone is tighter than my hamstrings

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    Iirc, a boost that has a flat EQ would be called a clean or “transparent” boost.

    A lot of OD pedals tend to add their own lil flavor to the tone but some people don’t want that and literally want their tone unaltered but just “tighter”
     
  3. HeHasTheJazzHands

    HeHasTheJazzHands greg rulz ok

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    It cuts the low end a bit going into the input stage. That's less of the low end being distorted by the gain stages, so it adds tightness and clarity to the sound. Because those low end freqs aren't being fed into the input. The midrange bump also adds some attack to the sound. On top of that, since there's some slight clipping going on, it compresses the signal so it makes things sound even. It's why cutting the low end and adding mids with an EQ won't sound exactly the same.

    An SD-1 is even more extreme. Cuts even *less* low end going into the input, and adds higher midrange frequencies so the sound is brighter.
     
  4. TheWarAgainstTime

    TheWarAgainstTime "TWAT" for short

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    The "EQ" part of using the 808 is what so many people like about it; some tone shaping before the distortion stages of the amp to get rid of the flubby lows and add some articulation. If you like it, there's no reason to ditch it.

    If you feel like experimenting with other drives then go for it as long as you don't get rid of the 808 since you know you already like it.

    I really like the Soul Food that you mentioned. Super good Klone for the price, and even better if you get a modded one. I had a stock one for a while and now have a JHS modded one, though I mostly use it to add gain in front of a clean channel rather than as a clean boost for a heavy sound. That isn't to say it isn't a good boost, though, just another application that it's great for :yesway:
     
  5. gnoll

    gnoll SS.org Regular

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    Hm, I'm still a bit confused.

    So is it important then that the eq changes happen before the signal goes into the amp? Is that what makes the difference so to speak? In that case why don't more people run an eq in front? (I know some do)

    Or is it the actual strengthening of the signal that we're after? In that case why not run something like the Seymour Duncan Killing Floor in front? It's supposed to add up to 34 db of gain and you can dial in how much of it you want. But that pedal doesn't seem marketed at metal players at all, which is then a bit confusing.
     
  6. mnemonic

    mnemonic Custom User Title

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    Two break it down, a tubescreamer does three separate things.

    1. It works as pre-eq. It cuts bass and boosts mids. Less bass into the front end of the amp means less distorted low frequencies, tighter and punchier response. The eq on your amp (and most other amps) is post-gain so it’s after the distortion. You add the bass back in here, and the result is a tight and punchy sound that isn’t thin.

    2. It adds a volume boost in front of the amp, getting the gain/distortion level higher. If you try running the level knob at unity (somewhere around noon) so it isn’t boosting volume, then compensate by turning up the gain on your amp, you’ll get a different sound. The capacitor across the gain pot in your amp head will reduce high frequencies as the gain knob is turned up, resulting in a darker, thicker tone.

    Volume boost alone will be similar to turning up the gain on the amp (while bearing in mind the cap I mentioned) and doesn’t really do anything to tighten the sound. That may be fine for an amp that’s already tight enough but just needs more gain.

    3. It clips the signal, even with drive set to 0. This acts almost like an extra gain stage, adding some saturation and compression to the sound. As said above, this changes the feel, makes things more even and easier to play.

    If you want to avoid this last part you can use something like an eq pedal as a boost as it can do the first two (with more versatility since you have more control over the frequencies boosted or cut) but does not add clipping.


    It all really boils down to pre-gain tone shaping vs post-gain tone shaping. The vast majority of high gain amps put the amp eq post-gain so you get no control over the eq before distortion.

    Changing the eq before distortion does a lot to change feel, whereas post-gain eq changes the overall sound.

    One notable exception is the Mesa Mark series amps. The bass/mid/treble eq is pre-gain so it acts like a boost pedal would. That’s why you see people setting it up with the bass at 0 and treble at 10 for a tight sound. The graphic eq is post-gain, like a 5150’s normal eq, or an eq in the loop.
     
  7. gnoll

    gnoll SS.org Regular

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    Thanks mnemonic, that really explains a lot!
     
  8. gnoll

    gnoll SS.org Regular

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    So processing all these new things I'm learning, more questions pop up in my head...

    Why do so many people use TS style pedals as boosts (including me)? Since we're turning down the gain to zero on the pedal anyway, wouldn't an eq make a hundred times more sense? Even if we want the low cut and mid hump, we could dial that in on the eq, but we would also have so many more options apart from that.

    And for me personally, I'm really mainly looking to tighten up my amp since I play a lot of fast downpicked stuff. It seems then like what I want is as big of a low frequency cut as possible in the front, and then dialling lows in on the amp (which makes perfect sense since that's what I've been doing this whole time with the od808). But that begs the question, what's the pedal that can cut the most low frequencies? Some sort of eq? I looked at the MXR stuff and they seem to be able to cut 12 or 18 dB. Is there anything better/more extreme than that? Do various overdrive/TS pedals actually cut the lows more than that?
     
  9. mnemonic

    mnemonic Custom User Title

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    An eq pedal is probably more flexible as you have more control over the frequencies but it also misses out on the clipping that a TS adds, even when the gain is set to 0.

    Try setting the gain to 0 and level to noon, and click it on and off on a clean channel. You can see how much clipping it still adds.

    Why do so many people still use a tubescreamer? They are simple (only 3 knobs, vs 7 to 10 sliders on an eq pedal) and we all pretty much use the same settings on them so there isn’t much if any tweaking required. Plus guitarists don’t seem to like change. Hell most of us use amps with vacuum tubes inside, with pickups and guitars whose general design is from the 50’s.

    Eq-based boosts are getting more popular though, as you see with stuff like these Fortin pedals. They’re just a fixed eq curve and a volume knob. Less flexible than an eq, but easy to work with, very little tweaking required.

    Given how popular these pedals have become, combined with the high cost and limited availability, I wouldn’t be surprised if we start seeing people like Mooer making cheap copies pretty soon.
     
  10. gnoll

    gnoll SS.org Regular

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    It all makes sense! I will definately keep looking for alternatives to the od808, I'm getting more and more convinced that it's not necessarily the best for me.

    This is very interesting!! I was actually looking at the Fortin Grind, because it seemed to sound pretty good (very tight!). So is that one basically just an eq curve and volume?

    I imagine it could still be hard to capture the exact nuances of a certain pedal with something like say, an MXR 10-band though, since the frequencies might not be exactly right and cuts/boosts might not be extreme enough.

    I was listening to this youtube-comparison of overdrives:



    And I'm now starting to change my way of evaluating the pedals while listening to the clip. At first it made sense that the pedal that sounds the best in the clip is the one to get. But now I'm thinking that the thinnest, most shrill and shitty sounding ones without any low end whatsoever should be the best for me because they should be the tightest ones after going crazy with the lows and resonance on the 5150. Interesting!!
     
  11. budda

    budda Guiterrorizer Contributor

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    What are your settings on the 5150, and what volume do you use it at?
     
  12. gnoll

    gnoll SS.org Regular

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    It's varied a bit, but right now it's at (red channel with 808):

    pre gain 3.3
    lows 8
    mids 2.5
    highs 6
    reso 9.2
    pres 8.8

    Volume varies, post gain ~1-3? Mostly around 2 or so I'd say.
     
  13. mnemonic

    mnemonic Custom User Title

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    Correct. It’s basically a real severe high pass filter and a big volume boost.

    The 33 I believe is a clone of the tc electronic integrated preamp which is a 2-band shelving eq (baxandall) with the settings fixed at Frederick’s settings.


    Since visual representations are always helpful, a guy on YouTube did an eq match of the ‘grind’ pedal in that Fortin nameless plugin using his computer and axe FX, and this is what it looks like.

    82BCC14F-B6C0-49A9-A81F-D307A6E61FD9.jpeg

    as you can see the main aspect is the severe low cut starting at around 1000hz or so. It is extremely tight sounding, and into an amp that has ample low end, it’s pretty punchy. The downside of this is that you need to eq your amp to sound pretty boomy and woofy when the boost is off. But I guess that’s not a problem if you don’t intend to turn it off.
     
  14. USMarine75

    USMarine75 Doc McStuffins (*Block version, not sig) Contributor

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    Try the VFE Standout Midbooster. It has variable low and high freq cutoff and you can control how drastic that cut rolls off. It allows you to basically tweak the 'OD' in front of your amp to allow it to work with any amp. This as opposed to being stuck with the curve your pedal is designed to have or with limited tone controls (like just having a tone knob). This is purely subjective! You will see some people swear by TS8, TS808, TS9, TS7, TS10, SD1, Klons, whatever! The VFE Standout allows you to craft your cutoff to approximate any of these. It doesn't have a mid control, so you get your mids based on how harshly you cut your lows and highs. It doesn't quite have the pronounced mids of say the TS8, but you get the same result by dialing in the mids on your amp to taste and shaping the input with this.

    http://vfepedals.com/standout.html

    Basically you're not using these pedals as true OD pedals... you're just using them to make the shape of your input signal more 'friendly' for your preamp distortion to work with, in order to get the sound people are currently after which is tighter (not always better) lows and usually rolled off highs.
     
    Last edited: Oct 13, 2018 at 7:12 AM
  15. Shask

    Shask SS.org Regular

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    Yes, I agree with the above, and my version of it....

    An OD pedal basically does 3 things:

    1. EQ Curve. As it has been said, cutting the lows tightens up an amp, boosting the mids increases the pick attack, so it sounds more in your face, and cutting the highs smooths out the high end so it dont sound so fizzy and ratty. Put those 3 together, and you get the trifecta of the Tubescreamer EQ curve. Something with a more flat, or transparent EQ (like the Klon clones you mentioned) will not tighten up in the same way... the sound will be more compressed and saturated, but it will not be as tight and cutting.

    2. Compression. All OD pedals compress the signal somewhat, which makes it easier to play. The sound feels more forceful, because you are compressing the tone, and then boosting the volume to hit the front of the amp with. You are missing this part of the equation with using an EQ pedal.

    3. Clipping. The clipping characteristics can change how fuzzy, fizzy, aggressive, clear, etc.... a distortion is. This is like the difference between a Marshall, or Mesa Mark series in comparison to something like a 5150 or Dual Recto. More modern amps tend to be more fuzzy, and saturated. Adding gain on an OD pedal can make an amp have more of these characteristics. You also miss this part using an EQ pedal.



    Overall, I love OD pedals, and wish I learned about them earlier in life. You can use 10 different OD pedals, and make an amp sound and feel 10 different ways. These days I have an entire drawer of them, and want more. The OD808 tends to be in the less extreme category, so what it does is fairly subtle. If you want a cheap experiment, grab a Boss SD-1. More drastic than the OD808, and awesome in it's own way. It makes everything sound more metal. :)
     
  16. budda

    budda Guiterrorizer Contributor

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    This for at home or in a band?
     
  17. gnoll

    gnoll SS.org Regular

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    Home! I play Katana or Bandit at rehearsal :\
     
  18. budda

    budda Guiterrorizer Contributor

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    Well this sounds backwards haha.
     
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  19. gnoll

    gnoll SS.org Regular

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    I know right :lol:

    Maybe we'll get a rehearsal space with our own stuff down the line :) but it's a bit more expensive...
     
  20. LiveOVErdrive

    LiveOVErdrive CNC hack

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    Get a metal zone and boost with that for parametric mid control goodness.
     

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