Dotted Eighth Delay Studies

Setting up the U2/Hillsong delay in a variety of situations.

The Sessionists

Esther Subra (vocals), Serena Chew (keys), Justin (guitars), Alphonsus (drums and percussion)

Thoughts on G.A.S.

Why you should save up for an expensive guitar.

Setting Up Disaster Area DPC-8EZ and DMC-8D MIDI Controllers

An easy-to-follow video tutorial to get those patches programmed!

An Overview of My YouTube Channel

Feel free to browse some of the playlists on my channel. Hopefully this leads to you liking and subscribing!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

An Experiment in Trimming the Herd

This was a quick experiment in tone crafting:

  • What if I removed all the various power supplies and just relied on one 9V adapter like the One Spot?
  • What if I removed the Deluxe Electric Mistress (update: I sold it off eventually), which was non-true bypass and had a bulky 18V adapter?
  • What if I removed the Carl Martin AC Tone, removing the first layer of overdrive?
What inspired such a radical experiment? At the last rehearsal before Music Extravagant with YFC, Richard said to me, "The only one who's niao  (trans. picky) about your tone is you." Don't worry, he didn't say that in an acrimonious way (I think we were talking about tone requirements, and how all he wanted was only a wah/overdrive/delay sound, and anything else in the equation was at my discretion). Yes, electric guitarists tend to be very niao about tone. We think that in order to squeeze as much tone as possible out of one pedal, we need to have two to three others to complement it. How often have you heard guitarists say things like:

"Yes, that Timmy is fantastic! But it really needs an already-slightly broken up tone to really get the shimmer right. So I'm getting a TS808 before the Timmy."

"Yeap, I have two delays in my rig, each one at a different delay time so that I can get a cascade of delay tone that doubles as a reverb."

Observation #1: No AC Tone
My primary use of the AC Tone was to have the first drive always on--it was set up for a slightly-broken-up tone, like an amp at the breaking point. Without the AC Tone, it's pristine clean now, and I had to get used to that tone. And you know what? I found the clean nuances of my guitars. The distinct differences between single coils and humbuckers were so much more evident.

I was a little lost without the boost function of the AC tone (I used the boost to push my lead tone into my solo tone), but I soon replaced that with my second EP booster. Carl Martin boosts are clean and non-colored, so with an EP, the boost has an EP flavor: fat, slight-smiley face, and compressed. It certainly was very different, but definitely a useable tone.

Observation #2: No Deluxe Electric Mistress
Yeap, I knew it. The 18V adapter was the cause of hum in my rig. Removing it from the chain had a distinct clean-up of white noise, hum and artifacts. There was even a brightness in my tone that I never knew was there--perhaps my ears were too used to the tone of non-true bypass. If I were to be honest, I had the DEM on my rig more for cosmetic than tonal reasons. '70s-style flange is nice, but it's a lot harder to incorporate that in a song than the tried-and-true tone of chorus. So the verdict is final: I'm removing the DEM permanently!

Observation #3: Removing Power Supplies
By having all the pedals running off a single One Spot, I realized that there's a loss of "mojo" in the pedals that can run on higher voltages like the BB Preamp, the Timmy, and the EP boosters. They sound nice at 9V, with a sound that's more compressed and less headroom, but they sound even better when cranked to 18V. But perhaps the biggest change is that they respond differently to the use of my guitar volume knob to clean up an overdriven tone. At 18V, I seem to be able to capture the nuances of everywhere between 0-10 in small increments (0, 1, 2, 3...10). At 9V, I lose that subtlety and it sounds like I can only vary from 0-10 in bigger increments (0, 2, 4, 6...10).

That being said, the removal of the DC brick helped to reduce the noise in my rig. It's dead quiet! It appears that I can only have one or the other: magic with noise, or less magic with no noise.

I need more tonal variation. While having a pristine-clean tone is nice, I'd rather have the first-layer overdrive of my AC tone to add some dirt into the next few overdrives. Stacked overdrives to my ears just sounds nicer than single-overdrives. I also can make do without the DEM, which will free up the space on my pedalboard and reduce the noise significantly. Finally, I will put back the DC brick so I can run the overdrives and EP boosters at 18V to have the extra clarity, headroom and "mojo".

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Cheap and Good

2013-05-02 065538

I know, I know. I said I’ll stop my GAS. I know I was quite proud of the fact that I managed to cut my pedalboard down to  size that I could get away with a single One Spot adapter. However, I ran into a few problems with the reduced setup:
  1. Without my AC Tone, my clean tone was “too clean”. I actually do like some dirt as a clean tone, using my guitar volume to adjust. With this as my first stage overdrive, I’m able to crank a bit more hair out of the Timmy and the BB. They also sound their best if the foundational tone has some dirt.
  2. Without my DC Brick, I had to run everything at 9V. To my ears, the BB and Timmy have the best mojo at 18V.
I also wanted to achieve the following tone goals:
  1. The AC Tone has a great boxy roar when cranked really loud, but I don’t play or practice at venues where I’m able to push amps to that kind of volume without receiving complaints of some sort. I also sold off one of my EP boosters, so I had no way to get the cranked Vox AC-30 tone. I wanted a boost pedal that was different to the EP booster.
  2. I wanted to get a reverb effect similar to the Shimmer effect but I can’t justify spending so much for a Strymon Blue Sky or Timeline. I also only had enough space for one more pedal, and it had to be sized like the EP booster.
  3. I wanted switching capability with my rig, and a 2-loop pedal meets my needs.
So, with these goals in mind, I set out to prowl the forums on SOFT and found:
2013-05-02 065547

Electroharmonix Linear Power Booster LPB-1
This boost pedal doesn’t sound good on its own. It’s quite a bright boost pedal, quite distinct from the EP booster, and sounds best when used on an already overdriven tone. Even though I’ve been advised to put this post-overdrive, I wanted to keep the EP booster as my post-drive booster to fatten the tone, so I put the LPB-1 pre-overdrive and compensated for the EQ on my overdrives. I’ve set it up for a subtle crank, but if need be, I could really get my overdrives to scream by turning it to 12 o’clock. This could be useful for low-output pickups like on my tele.
2013-05-02 065555

Mooer Shimverb
Don’t be too dismissive of this Chinese product. It has its own version of the Shimmer effect, distinct from the Strymon and Hardwire tone. Its algorithm is set to 5th’s instead of an octave up, and this has been a source of complaint among Shimverb users who say that the pedal is “hard to use”. To me, reverb effects are not supposed to steal the limelight from the tone of the guitar. With an algorithm set to 5th’s, you should be thinking that the tone is going to be thicker than an algorithm set to an octave up. The Shimverb Shimmer sounds best when the effect level is set to 10-11 o’clock and the decay level set anywhere between 12-3 o’clock. This disguises the overtone so you can’t tell that it’s set to 5th’s, which will be helpful since playing diatonically will land you in intervals where the 5th sounds “wrong”.
So in summary, the Shimverb doesn’t make you out-of-tune. It makes you out-of-key, and  that can be a cool thing depending on the musical situation.
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Boss Line Selector LS-2
The problem with basic loopers is that they don’t have internal buffers to adjust the volume of individual loops to compensate for volume differences. With the LS-2, even though the pedal isn’t “true bypass”, I’m able to adjust loop volumes to taste. I have my entire overdrive section on Loop A (I haven’t set up Loop B—maybe if I get more pedals!) so that I can get a clean sound with one stomp, instead of having to tap dance.

What I want to try next is to set up a mix of A and B, which in theory will allow me to blend clean and overdrive signals together like the Clean control of the Voodoo Lab Sparkle Drive. Or, I could put the Shimverb in Loop B and control the mix by boosting or cutting the buffer volume while having the overdrives in Loop A. I’ve tried having the Shimverb track an overdrive tone, and I believe it does a better job on a clean tone instead.

Now the only problem with this monstrosity of a pedalboard is that it takes up 3 types of power to run it—I power the 18V and a few of the 9V pedals with the DC Brick, some of the 9V pedals with my Mooer power supply, and the AC Tone runs its own power on 12V. I velcro-ed a 3-way multiplug adapter to the bottom of the board to accommodate these, and I think it’s adding some noise to the signal. All-in-all, it's manageable; I only have major noise problems occasionally.


With an additional trip down to SV guitars, I obtained enough patch cables to set up the second loop!

Loop 1:
Wah -> Comp -> LPB-1 -> AC Tone -> Timmy -> BB preamp -> EP booster -> ISP decimator
My entire overdrive section is now in one loop, so I'm able to go from overdrive to a clean bypass with the click of a switch. With my volume pedal now after my amp sim and before my delay pedals, the volume pedal is now a master volume, something that I couldn't do until I got a hold of longer patch cables.

Loop 2:
Mooer Shimverb
After trying out places to put the Shimverb, I have settled on placing it in Loop B for a few reasons:
  1. There is a discernable drop in volume when engaging the Shimverb. By putting it in the LS-2 loop, I'm able to give a slight volume boost to compensate.
  2. When engaged, the Shimverb very quickly steals the limelight of the signal, and the guitar tone is instantly swept up in the "wash" of the shimmer effect. I set my LS-2 to run on A-B-Mix, which means the signals of Loop 1 and 2 are superimposed. I can now have a clean tone on Loop 1 with compression and some EQ tweaked from the EP booster (the Shimverb does have make some strange sounds when a compressor and EQ is in the mix) while having an effected signal in Loop 2.
  3. When I turn the Shimverb off, Loop 2 becomes clean and dry. As a fan of the Voodoo Lab Sparkle Drive, now I can utilize Loop 2 as a "boosted direct signal" which, in the words of the good people at Voodoo Lab, "restores the attack and feel which is lost in a highly compressed overdrive circuit."

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