Thursday, May 2, 2013

Cheap and Good

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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:
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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.
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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."



Looks like you need a Voodoo Labs Pedal Power 2.

That would really help cut down noise.

I would like to recommend an overdrive for that bit of hair, bit of dirt, clean-ish tone = Blackstone Overdrive.

Hi Daniel! I like the Blackstone Overdrive! It's just a little rare here--gotta prowl and wait for someone to let it go. The Pedal Power 2+ does seem like the logical upgrade to my DC brick too.

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