Pedal order with old pedals, buffering, etc.

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Pedal order with old pedals, buffering, etc.

Postby steveokla on Sun Jun 09, 2013 4:18 am

Yes, let it be whispered, another thread about pedal order, buffering, true bypass, etc. Here's why.
I launched a quest some time back to put together a vintage board--all started when I got a real nice '80 TS808 from a friend. Anyway, I figured out which vintage pedals to talk myself into--the 'grails' for me--and the quest has ended. I want to get serious about lining them up, powering them, etc., and to pay more attention to such details than I have in the past. I have not a single true bypass pedal to work with as I assemble my board. I'm using a Pedal Train and Power2 Plus. Of course, there are lots of other cool vintage pedals I'd like to own (used to drool thinking about an Electro Harmonix Attack/Decay, but never could come up with one), but I settled on the following, which I now have:

Dynacomp script logo compressor; 69 Vox v847 Wah, trash can inductor; '66 Arbiter England FF (germanium); TS808; Univibe; AD9 Delay. There you have it. I've listed them in the order I thought I'd put them, more or less, subject to such counsel as I get to the contrary. That's a lot of buffered pedals, so I've been considering the Voodoo Lab Pedal Switcher which has four true bypass loops. It would also give me the liberty of arranging the pedals any way I like to get them all on there, since I could switch them on and off using the VL Pedal Switcher-placement of the pedals could be premised on best fit on the board, instead of access to foot switches. That's no small thing as getting these Big A** pedals on the Pedal Train is going to take some real architectural planning. The Univibe alone is he size of a Winnebago, and the FF is like a hubcap. Besides, it would save a lot of stomping on vintage pedal switches, which appeals to me. I've read somewhere that a decent rule of thumb is no more than a couple buffered pedals, one in front and one in back of the chain. Since I've got six pedals, based on the 'rule', and following my current arrangement as listed above, I thought to bypass everything except the compressor (which I thought should go first) and the AD9, which will be last.

There is one oddity of note, though. Wah's are frequently indicted as horrific tone suckers, suggesting they're the first thing to get bypassed. However that may be, for whatever reasons, my old '69 Thomas Organ/Italy Vox doesn't seem to effect my tone at all. I've done a little experimenting with the guitar going directly into the amp with no pedals, then adding the wah. Truth be told, with the wah off, I just flat can't tell the difference. I should add, though, that I didn't continue the experiment (yet), systematically adding a pedal at a time. It may be that each addition might not only influence tone in its own right, but might have unforeseen consequences for the wah in particular.

I'm just not real good at this and would genuinely appreciate input from the many on this forum who are. Thanks, Steve
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Re: Pedal order with old pedals, buffering, etc.

Postby DoneB4 on Sun Jun 09, 2013 5:15 am

Unless your wah has been modified, it almost certainly has an input impedance of around 68K, which is definitely low enough to experience treble loss. As might be expected, this treble loss seems more noticeable when using a brighter/cleaner amp or pickup. Do you play with a healthy amount of distortion or dial in a darker sound to begin with?
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Re: Pedal order with old pedals, buffering, etc.

Postby steveokla on Sun Jun 09, 2013 2:33 pm

DoneB4 wrote:Unless your wah has been modified, it almost certainly has an input impedance of around 68K, which is definitely low enough to experience treble loss. As might be expected, this treble loss seems more noticeable when using a brighter/cleaner amp or pickup. Do you play with a healthy amount of distortion or dial in a darker sound to begin with?


For the most part, I"m using a Strat through a pair of amps and A/B switcher: V'64 Vibroverb and a '64 Super Reverb. In some circumstances, I'll use a tweed combination-'56 Pro and '60 Bassman. With the latter setup, I rarely use distortion pedals, so they're a non-issue.

As to your question. When I was using a Keeley Fuzz Head, I was generally backed off pretty far on the Fuzz. That's been the case with all the modern fuzz pedals I've had--'69 Pedal, '70 Pedal, Roger Mayer Axis, etc. I never really liked the sound of any of them with the fuzz control set very high, as I found them harsh. The Fuzz Face, which I've only had for a short while, so I'm still experimenting, is another matter. I've found the tone with the Fuzz control at near max very smooth, warm and pleasant, so, at this point, I find myself setting it that way. Also, even with the Fuzz nearly dimed, it still cleans up beautifully. Short answer is, I guess, that with the FF you might say I'm using a lot of distortion, owing to its special qualities.

I can't say I'm troubled much by treble loss, as I find a Strat plugged straight into a Fender amp too shrill for my taste--a sizzle or glisten at the top end I don't like. That's one of the reasons I use a coil cord. For clean tone, I set the SR thus: Treble about 'noon (sometimes backing off); Mid about 6 or 7, Bass anywhere between 3 1/2 to 5. I will say, some of this has to do with this particular SR--it's overall warmer than others I've had. The VV's are very close in tone (I've always found these amps to be very consistent from one to the next), but do have a slightly different character. Most of the difference is due to the speakers in each, of course. One has the original CTS, the other the original D130f. But, I've patched each through the other's speaker for comparison, and they're still a little different: the one with the CTS is overall a little brighter. I generally set it more or less ala SRV, but not quite (owing to it's slightly brighter properties: Treble at 5 or 5 1/2, Bass at 6 are just slightly higher. The other, with the JBL, is, as noted a touch darker--it's very subtle, but it's there. I set that one: Treble at 6 1/2-7, Bass at 5-51/2. Those settings for the three amps get me where I want to be in terms of clean, unaffected tone.
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Re: Pedal order with old pedals, buffering, etc.

Postby DoneB4 on Sun Jun 09, 2013 3:20 pm

The coil cable could be rolling off enough highs before your wah to make the "tone excerting a suction force" of the wah less noticeable. I will say that when I've experimented with a vintage style wah, the treble loss is there, but it's not dramatic. I've gone back and forth, putting the wah inline between guitar and amp with no other pedals (not touching the settings and leaving the wah off, of course) and then taking it out and going straight in. My impression was that if I wasn't listening for the difference, I might miss it.
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Re: Pedal order with old pedals, buffering, etc.

Postby steveokla on Sun Jun 09, 2013 3:25 pm

DoneB4 wrote:The coil cable could be rolling off enough highs before your wah to make the "tone excerting a suction force" of the wah less noticeable. I will say that when I've experimented with a vintage style wah, the treble loss is there, but it's not dramatic. I've gone back and forth, putting the wah inline between guitar and amp with no other pedals (not touching the settings and leaving the wah off, of course) and then taking it out and going straight in. My impression was that if I wasn't listening for the difference, I might miss it.

That's been precisely my experience.
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Re: Pedal order with old pedals, buffering, etc.

Postby Mr. Arkadin on Sun Jun 09, 2013 3:47 pm

I primarily use Strats and I like the way old wahs affect my tone (when bypassed). They can actually smooth out distortion or tighten it up, depending on what you're using. All of them sound different and as a result I have a lot of different ones I'll use for different guitars, chains of pedals, or amps.

With a FF, you really need to experiment and find out where it works best in the chain. I've got some germaniums that demand to be first in line, as the buffering makes them sound ratty and spoils their sound. Others don't play well w/wahs and you need to stick something in between the wah and FF in order to get them not to cancel each other out.

What's the answer? Sit down and take the time to experiment with everything you have. Don't buy into some TB nonsense--Jimi never had it--neither did SRV or EJ--all prominent FF users. That does not mean that it cannot be used to solve problems, or create a better sound, but it's not as important a some would have you believe.

The key to any great sound is matching the right guitar, amps, and pedals and then knowing how to tweak them to your advantage. In some cases, that is vintage gear, others modern, and for most of us here, a mixture. I've seen people with incredible tones walked up to the stage and was dumbfounded to find a slew of Boss pedals, sometimes arranged in a crazy order I would never have thought if. Tone starts in your head (knowing what you want), evolves into experimentation, and the concept of knowing your chain inside and out and how one component will affect the others. From that point, it's a process of putting the right pieces together to get the sound you're looking for. Don't forget live experimentation--some sounds that are awesome in your practice room, simply don't cut well through a live mix.
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Re: Pedal order with old pedals, buffering, etc.

Postby steveokla on Sun Jun 09, 2013 4:53 pm

Mr. Arkadin wrote:I primarily use Strats and I like the way old wahs affect my tone (when bypassed). They can actually smooth out distortion or tighten it up, depending on what you're using. All of them sound different and as a result I have a lot of different ones I'll use for different guitars, chains of pedals, or amps.

With a FF, you really need to experiment and find out where it works best in the chain. I've got some germaniums that demand to be first in line, as the buffering makes them sound ratty and spoils their sound. Others don't play well w/wahs and you need to stick something in between the wah and FF in order to get them not to cancel each other out.

What's the answer? Sit down and take the time to experiment with everything you have. Don't buy into some TB nonsense--Jimi never had it--neither did SRV or EJ--all prominent FF users. That does not mean that it cannot be used to solve problems, or create a better sound, but it's not as important a some would have you believe.

The key to any great sound is matching the right guitar, amps, and pedals and then knowing how to tweak them to your advantage. In some cases, that is vintage gear, others modern, and for most of us here, a mixture. I've seen people with incredible tones walked up to the stage and was dumbfounded to find a slew of Boss pedals, sometimes arranged in a crazy order I would never have thought if. Tone starts in your head (knowing what you want), evolves into experimentation, and the concept of knowing your chain inside and out and how one component will affect the others. From that point, it's a process of putting the right pieces together to get the sound you're looking for. Don't forget live experimentation--some sounds that are awesome in your practice room, simply don't cut well through a live mix.


Thank you-the systematic experimentation procedure you recommend is a counsel of perfection. I do have a tiny bypass looper I got from Keeley a while back. Using that, with your method, I could check the effect of bypass on a pedal-by-pedal basis to see if there's an issue and if TB would resolve it. I haven't tried the FF with any other pedals yet-it'll be interesting to see which it gets along with in what order. Thanks so much.
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Re: Pedal order with old pedals, buffering, etc.

Postby steveokla on Thu Sep 19, 2013 2:01 pm

Is his nuts?

I've experimented for some time now, following the sage advice you guys have offered, etc. I've arrived at an arrangement that sounds good to my ear, but I think I've broken about every 'general rule' governing pedal order I've read. My arrangement is, in a word, eccentric, and I'm wondering if anyone else has used anything like this arrangement--anyone see any obvious flaws? Here's what I ended up; with:

Peterson Stomp Tuner (true bypass mode) > Univibe > germanium Fuzz Face > TS808 > Vox Wah > Dynacomp > AD9 > out to amp. I know this runs counter to the conventional wisdom I've seen on various sites, which would have a wah and compressor early in the chain, and pedals like the Univibe late in the chain. I think it was Mr. Arkadin who, in one of his responsive posts, talked about early placement of the Univibe, at least where a germanium FF is involved in the mix. He was dead on: to me, with both the Univibe and FF active, the Univibe sounds awful after the FF--gnarly and harsh. In front of the FF, the Univibe sounds natural and organic with both activated. The placement of the Univibe relative to the FF was thus nonnegotiable. Same goes for the Wah--as you guys pointed out, placement of the Wah in front of the FF simply doesn't work, so that settled that--once again, non-negotiable.

Ok, so those were the musts--the Univibe had to go in front of the FF, and the Wah had to go after, period. Now, as to the rest of it. I tried the Wah just after the FF and before the TS808. That arrangement would conform in some degree, at least, with the customary arrangement which calls for the Wah early. After going back and forth, though, to my ear, the Wah and TS808 both sounded more natural and retained more dynamics with the Wah following the TS808. I don't know quite how to put it, except to say that with the Wah behind the TS808, with both engaged, both sounded more like they sound on their own when only one or the other is engaged, which I find appealing. Found the same thing with the Dynacomp. While it sounded fine early in the change (as generally recommended) I didn't like what I would describe as a "limiting effect" I got with the comp up front. With early placement of the comp, it struck me as something like a governor on an engine and it felt stultifying. Next to last in the chain, the effect is subtle and doesn't seem to rob my signal of dynamics and expression. I know comps amplify any noise they get from pedals in front of them, but with mine, while I suppose there's a little more noise, it's simply not enough to offset the restoration of dynamics realized with the comp following everything else (except the AD9). Sometimes, I can tell no difference at all. The AD9 place is, of course, conventional and works fine.

Once I figured out the order I wanted, I decided it might not be a bad idea to do at least some bypassing with all these non-true bypass pedals. In particular, the Univbe colors my tone pretty dramatically. Sometimes, I actually like the effect, but other times I want my tone without that influence. Anyway, I got one of those Voodoo Lab Pedal switchers. There was still a dilemma, however, as it only accommodates four pedals. I knew I wanted to bypass the Univibe, so that used one input. Then I bypassed the FF. Mr. Arkadin has pointed out that he hears the influence of the FF on his tone (disengaged), and I don't doubt it. My ear is likely less discriminating, so I can't honestly say I hear it, but I bypassed it anyway primarily because I wanted to use the up-front switches on the Pedal Switcher rather than stomping on the FF switch. With the Univibe-the size of a Winebago--and the FF (a hubcap), there's precious little room on the Pedal Train. Getting the pedals to fit on the board meant I could give no regard for convenience in reaching switches. Using the Pedal Switcher switches permitted me to disregard switch access and focus on getting everything on the board after the fashion of a jigsaw puzzle. I bypassed the TS808 as well.

When I got to the end of the chain, I had three pedals remaining--the Wah, comp and AD9--with a single bypass input remaining on the Pedal Switcher. My first impulse was to bypass the Wah, as these are frequently cited as tone killers. I think I've mentioned that, for reasons I can't explain, my old 69 Wah just doesn't seem to have any discernible effect, so I skipped it and bypassed the comp. The notion of leaving a buffered pedal at the end of the chain comports with traditional wisdom, near as I can gather, so the AD9 serves that function. On the other hand, I actually have two buffered pedals at the end of the line, since I didn't bypass the Wah. I don't know what the conventional wisdom is regarding two buffered pedals at the end of the chain. I'm going to do a little more experimenting (using my ears), comparing what I get with the comp bypassed (as now) versus bypassing the Wah instead.

Well, there you have it. I welcome comments ops on my quirky arrangement. Thanks!
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Re: Pedal order with old pedals, buffering, etc.

Postby Mr. Arkadin on Thu Sep 19, 2013 8:02 pm

Sounds like you have something that works for you and that's the most important thing. The players who have signature sounds are the ones who experiment with their setup and know not only what the devices do, but where they should be placed. For instance, I've got a couple of off brand phasers that sound run of the mill when placed after a distortion pedal, but run up front, give a killer vowel sounding wah tone. I'd never have discovered that if I just followed the beaten path. There's also the factor of unit consistency--every pedal that I have more than one of, never sounds exactly the same, just like guitars and amps. Glad to see you've got your rig up and running the way you want it to sound.

:cheers:
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Re: Pedal order with old pedals, buffering, etc.

Postby steveokla on Fri Sep 20, 2013 1:52 pm

Thanks much-that's very reassuring. It just struck me that my arrangement was pretty eccentric relative to the customary order of things as usually recommended. I wanted to see if there's something problematic in the order I selected I've overlooked. That said, from reading (and re-reading) your posts on the subject, together with a pretty extensive research on the net indicates that some of my voices aren't altogether unprecedented. For instance, as you've pointed out, an old Vox wah ahead of a germanium FF is out of the question. Moreover, most of the articles and such stating the usual order are aimed at boards filled with modern pedals. When I dug deeper and found articles devoted to ordering vintage pedals, the standard recommendations pretty much went out the window. For instance, I found several references to placing the Vibe ahead of the FF as it sounds gnarly when placed after. The placement I chose for the comp is unorthodox, but Keeley, whose basic chain recommendations has the comp first, nevertheless indicates that he personally prefers the comp after OD pedals if the comp is quiet. He also discussed the relative merits of wah placement preceding and following various pedals. In the end, your counsel and those in depth articles moved me to be a little freer in going about things. Thanks again for all the help!
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Re: Pedal order with old pedals, buffering, etc.

Postby Mr. Arkadin on Fri Sep 20, 2013 2:06 pm

Check out Eric Johnson's live rig. He used to run his Tube Driver right at the end of the chain--after the Echoplex! Frank Marino's signal routing is also unorthodox. As for the Dyancomp, sounds like you are using it like a limiter to even out your signal, instead of compression. I'll use a Carl Martin compressor after my distortion to perform this same function in some cases. I also use the limiting function of my SE70 in the effects loop of the amp to do the same thing.
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Re: Pedal order with old pedals, buffering, etc.

Postby steveokla on Sat Sep 21, 2013 2:47 pm

Mr. Arkadin wrote:Check out Eric Johnson's live rig. He used to run his Tube Driver right at the end of the chain--after the Echoplex! Frank Marino's signal routing is also unorthodox. As for the Dyancomp, sounds like you are using it like a limiter to even out your signal, instead of compression. I'll use a Carl Martin compressor after my distortion to perform this same function in some cases. I also use the limiting function of my SE70 in the effects loop of the amp to do the same thing.


I hadn't thought of it that way, but that's right. There are very few occasions on which I actually want a compression 'effect'--a little chicken pickin here and there, and a few classics in which the effect is real evident, e.g., Sultans of Swing. Apart from those special occasions, I have little use for the effect itself. When I have it on, I have the Volume set at about 2:00 and the Intensity (or whatever the effect knob's called) between 4:00 o'clock and 3:00 o'clock. As you say, it levels things out. In addition, I've found it fattens the tone of the TS808--reintroduces more bottom. I don't always want that, but sometimes it seems right. I also have been using it once in a while as a clean boost. One of the best things about it for me, though, is it gives me feedback more or less on demand. I recall as a kid playing back in the day, playing Foxy Lady and shaking strings endlessly awaiting feedback that never came.

By way of footnote, on the business of tone fattening and 'middling' things up, since I've gotten the Vibe, I've found myself using it that way here and there: running the signal through the Vibe with the effect off. Still experimenting, but I think it will have its uses.

Again, thanks so much for the all the help.
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