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Old 16th June 2011, 01:16 AM   #1
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Default Better guitar distortion, DIY ;-)

I'm sure many of us have built our own distortion pedals, and there are tons of circuits out there. But I'd like some opinions on what goes into making a particular kind of guitar crunch/distortion. I'll tell you what *I* think too, but I could be way off base. I've plenty of different pedals that do the full range from mild overdrive to slight crunch through all out searing wails. But through that whole range there's still something missing. Often when I listen to guitar crunch that I really like, I can hear the crisp clang of the metal strings ringing, especially on chords, even though there is solid distortion or overdrive. I don't hear that with the distortion in my boss multi-effects pedal.

What I'm thinking is that there should be compression, followed by a split signal path, where one split goes through the distortion and the other doesn't, and the two are later blended. It seems to me that many many years ago, I used to see a "blend" control on some floor distortion pedals, but not lately. But do you think I'm on to something here? Could a blend like that help get me the sound I'm looking for?
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Old 16th June 2011, 10:49 AM   #2
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I suspect what you're hearing is perhaps the skill of the guitarist, both in the playing, and in the setting of his various controls.

Often the effects people seem to be looking for came from skillful use of really poor quality (and dead crude) old pedals.
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Old 16th June 2011, 02:03 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nigel Goodwin View Post
I suspect what you're hearing is perhaps the skill of the guitarist, both in the playing, and in the setting of his various controls.

Often the effects people seem to be looking for came from skillful use of really poor quality (and dead crude) old pedals.
Yes- My guitar player friend who has decades of devotion to the art of guitar playing, likes to say he uses "digital effects" as he waves his fingers in the air. A good amp is often in compression when its making the best sounds. Im wih Niugel, Boxes up front are not the same as distortion in the amp itself.
My 2 Cents
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Old 16th June 2011, 03:10 PM   #4
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Well not that it means anything coming from ME <ggg> but I'm a pretty decent player, and have been a player, listener, and dabbled in making effects for a good 40 years (probably my first electronic project for music was turning some amplifier circuit borrowed from some old radio to create a make shift "fuzz box", but I digress. ). I guess my point is, the question I pose would be different if it were coming from someone less experienced. For the record, I'd be the first to agree about getting great sound pushing a big old tube amp. I have here a Peavey MACE series amp with 2 x 12" Black Widow speakers ( whose magnets are almost as big as the speakers themselves) and an output stage using 6L6 tubes, for a total of 150wRMS. I also have a 1972 Gibson Deluxe model Les Paul, and I mention all that to explain that when I jack my guitar into that amp and crank it, I have NO complaints or issues whatsoever with that sound. And if I need a little more crunch, just about any dirt cheap box will more than compensate.

NOW...all that said, moving that amp (which weighs in at nearly 100lbs, or at least feels like it does) is just not an option anymore. These days, for a variety of reasons, my guitar goes into my floor pedals and then goes right to the mixing board. Put in THAT context, I'm sure you can better understand why I want to use every technical trick in the book to improve the sound quality as much as is feasible. I *DID* find a used Rolland VG-8 on an ebay sale that required me to put one of those hex pickups on my guitar to use it. The thing is huge and heavy, but was barley over $100 compared to more than 10x that for the latest version (which of course is small and light). That VG8 convinced me in a hurry that technology does exist to actually give me something pretty darn close to an overdriven marshal stack (or several other amp models), using digital technology, so I'm a believer. So I'm just always looking for ways to make SOME improvements to my lighter and more portable analog gig setup, where I'm forced to just play through a mix board.

There's no question that if I could magically multiply my talent, or could go back to moving big amplifiers, it might make my post unnecessary. But I also believe that another talent available to me is my understanding of electronics and audio, and was seeking other like minded musicians who were also DIY'rs, to see what improvements I could make to what I have.
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Old 16th June 2011, 03:28 PM   #5
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Peter - Do you hang on the Les Paul Fourm? Ill bet
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Old 16th June 2011, 04:05 PM   #6
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FireChief: No... , but I wouldn't mind checking it out. Link?
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Old 16th June 2011, 04:15 PM   #7
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Les Paul Forums - MyLesPaul.com

I like the "Squak Box" myself.
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Old 16th June 2011, 09:08 PM   #8
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Default compression placement

Hey there!

Just rereading your original post a few times, I'm thinking that maybe the compression should be split as well, and maybe if your mixing board (or the clubs) allows, you could even use two phases of it?

I may be crazy, but it seems like distortion has more harmonic character than a clean guitar signal, and if you could use two phases of compression - one previous to distortion and one after, you could emphasize the harmonics and make it sing! ? !

I am crazy. And I know that many fuzz/distorto pedals provide compression before output, often without any user control, so this might not be applicable to what you are using or going for. And your unit may provide the same effect just by you putting the compression in front of it.

In regard to your "splitting" and "blending" - I use two amps, one a clean Pro Reverb and the other a Frankenamp that I boost into distortion and otherwise use for an effects amp. I like to blend clean and distorted. I also like the spatial effects of one signal being modified while the other stays the same.

Anyway, just a couple of ideas.
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Old 16th June 2011, 09:44 PM   #9
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I found a circuit many years ago I think in wireless world for a soft limiter.
This circuit emulates valve distortion.
It basically uses an op amp stage with transistors in the feedback loop with level set by a pot. I was very impressed with the sound and it gives sustain too.
I added a high boost stage after it and it was very good.
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Old 16th June 2011, 10:49 PM   #10
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I built one of these for a friend. Its one input and two out's with each side out buffered by 1/2 of an 12AX7, and some level controls to set the balance. It goes between the gitar and two amp's. The input and output impeadance is on the order of 1M so it is reasonablly transparent, but we both believe it beats the heck out of just patching from one amp to the other. I call it the" F-tube". The idea is to set up one amp for a sound that it is good at , and the other for it's sound. This help's address the problem of the "one trick pony" that plagues so many amp's. This is not a stomp box, but one could of course put the effects device after this
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Last edited by firechief; 16th June 2011 at 11:13 PM.
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