Help a guitarist become a shoegazer!
August 4, 2006 7:22 PM   Subscribe

GuitarGearFilter: I'm a semi-skilled guitarist looking to add pedals and effects to my rig. I like the idea of those several-pedals-in-one processor thingies, but I'm baffled by the array of stuff out there and a bit wary of the opinions of the possibly-commissioned staff of the local music store.

I mostly play prog, metal, and quirky rock. All I really need (or think I need, I suppose) is wah, volume, delay, and whammy, though chorus and such would be nice. I couldn't care less about amp modelling ("Sound like Hendrix with the touch of a button! Suck anyway!"), though I notice that it seems to be a standard feature. Keep a student's budget in mind.

(I don't know if it makes a difference, but I'm playing an Ibanez through a Fender amp.)
posted by Schlimmbesserung to Media & Arts (13 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
One of the most important components of electric guitar tone is compression - regardless of musical style.

As far as getting by on the cheap, take a look at a used Digitech 2101 or 2112, I've seen them go for as little as $200, and they offer a wide range of effects (including decent whammy, delay, pitch shifting and phase/flange), as well as some really interesting tube and solid state distortion. Given that you're using a Fender amp, you're probably not experiencing the amazing range of distortion flavors out there, something near and dear to me.

As far as wah, that's the one thing that you'll really end up wanting a dedicated pedal for the best tone. The Teese stuff is expensive, but worth every penny.
posted by dbiedny at 7:53 PM on August 4, 2006

What kind of amp do you already have? That's hugely important to your tone.

As far as effects pedals go, I've found that the all-in-one units, while convenient, never sound as good as just getting a few good pedals.

For Wah, I'd suggest a regular old crybaby. You can't lose with one of those.

Delay - the BOSS DD-6 is pretty spiffy. I have a DD-5, myself, and that's just the baby brother of the DD-6. Whatever delay you get, make sure it's got tap tempo functionality.

Whammy - The Digitech Whammy is a monster. David Gilmour uses one of these on his newest album to great effect. I've not got one at the moment, but it's on my short list of 'gonna gets'.

The different chorus pedals out there are so varied that I hesitate to suggest one. Just try them all until you find the one you like.

Volume pedals are all pretty much the same. The important thing is to find one that feels right under your feet.

If you're just getting into effects, I strongly suggest you go the individual pedal route. With pedals it's really easy to switch them around and tweak settings and rearrange them and just have a ball fiddling about. With the multi-effects boxes, you have to dig through menus and that can be a big pain.
posted by Rubber Soul at 8:59 PM on August 4, 2006

Dunlop's crybaby wah is still the best, IMO. I don't even play guitar, but I can mindlessly play with one of those pedals for hours on end.

That pedal can produce sounds the sputter, arc wildly, and have a tangy aftertaste. In the hands of a skilled player on a half-decent guitar it's the the one of my favorite auditory sensations.
posted by phrontist at 9:07 PM on August 4, 2006

I use Danolectro mini-effects and I love them. The only non-Dano pedal I use is a MXR Super Comp for compression.

For what you're wanting, the Digitech is probably the best, if budget is a huge concern. They feel cheap to me and I'm not too crazy about them. Asthetically speaking, you may derive more tactile pleasure from having a separate effect for each of the sounds you want. There's just something about having self-contained effects that I like. On the cheap, the Dano pedals are a steal. You can get them for under $20 bucks each on ebay.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 9:13 PM on August 4, 2006

i like my digitech rp50 ... it's a multi-effects processor that sounds good and i bought mine for 59 bucks a few months ago ... it doesn't really do wah or volume unless you buy the foot pedal attachment, too

compression, amp, effects, etc etc are important to your tone ... but don't forget right hand technique
posted by pyramid termite at 9:14 PM on August 4, 2006

Best answer: Have you tried Harmony Central? Lots of user reviews there, hopefully non-commissioned.
posted by greatgefilte at 9:22 PM on August 4, 2006

Best answer: I talked to a guy the other day who used to work in a guitar shop. People would come there and sell pedals to them, and they would pay around $5 each for them. There was not much market for used pedals so most of the employees could buy them from the store for $5 (or less sometimes). This guy used to have a box full of $5 pedals. Makes me weep to think about it (he no longer has them).

I bought a processor many years ago (still have it, don't much like it, but it was not really top of the line even then) and it's a good way to get a wide, wide variety of sounds. The more you pay, in general, the better quality you'll get, especially where it counts (low noise, high quality analog effects, more choice of effects and placement).

There's a question you really need to ask yourself: how many different sounds do you need, and why? I get obsessive with things and want to try all the combinations. I'll come up with a little song and want to see how it sounds through every patch available to me. And then maybe again capoed up a bit. Any maybe again with a different guitar. This is time consuming and probably pointless. I'm working on it, trying to find a limited pallete of sounds that I like. I am not a working musician, and I don't need to find a sound that is right for some particular purpose, I just need a collection of good sounds.

That in mind, I think you want: wah, compressor, one or maybe two EQ, 3-ish distortion pedals, from overdrive to balls-out (I like big muff pi for that myself). That's your basic pre-amp selection.

Post-amp you'll sometimes want chorus/flanging/phasing (I don't use that much though), often you'll want reverb and delay. If you're fooling around at home you don't have many post-amp options most likely, which is a pity. Time-based effects can sound bad before the amp stage (due to a non-musical distortion called intermodulation distortion).

Post-amp (I mic a speaker that I put in a closet) I use Guitar Rig from Native Instruments, which is a computer-based multi-effects processor. It's about as configurable as such things get, offering a LOT of effects and a crapload ofways to put them together. It does much more than any hardware-based system in existence. It's not cheap, and it basically involves a computer so unless you already have one, that's yet another expense (but you probably do have a computer). You'll probably want a decent sound-capture device, like a firewire or USB2 audio interface. Although I suppose you could use it pre-amp (or all alone by itself, it boasts a lot of amp and cab/micing simulation) I use it strictly post-amp through monitors.

Don't forget that lots and lots of pedals are sold every day on ebay for considerably less than what you will pay for them at guitar center. Pawn shops will also often have a random selection of stuff although the prices are not always good. I like to buy pro-quality stuff that is a generation old, when I can. I feel the same way about home theater processing equipment. Stuff that cost thousands 5 years ago is now only hundreds and still better than current amateur equipment.
posted by RustyBrooks at 9:26 PM on August 4, 2006 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I've played guitar for 20+ years, I own 20-30 pedals and have built 10+ of my own. I say this so maybe you'll consider what I have to say.

My suggestions:

NOT Crybaby, buy a Vox V847. The difference is huge. I have owned two Crybabies and modded both of them to try to make them better. Finally I just bought a Vox, and it smokes em.

The Danelectro Fab pedals are getting rave reviews from everybody that tries them, and they cost $15. They are essentially improving on well known designs. Seriously, people freaking love those things. I don't have any because I already own the pedals they are based on. They are a cheap easy way to get great sounding pedals for practically nothing.

It is not wise to discount amp modeling technology. The good amp modelers sound better than the amps they emulate. I know because I have owned three amps (and demo'd a few more) that my Line 6 emulates. I sold 'em. Many, many records recorded now use emulators for the guitar amps. They are certainly the future of guitar and bass amplification.
posted by tcobretti at 9:51 PM on August 4, 2006

I have a Boss GT-6 and I like it a lot. Ditto on Harmony Central's user reviews though. That's probably your best resource.
posted by frenetic at 10:39 PM on August 4, 2006

Response by poster: Oooh. I'm definitely taking a look at those Danelectro pedals next time I have a chance. The main reason for my interest in the processors was the cost-effectiveness of so many sounds in one unit, but if those things are that cheap and as good as everyone seems to say, then why not?

I may have taken the wrong perspective on amp modelling, for which I apologize. If you read the publicity in a lot of guitar magazines, they make it seem like a scam way to make kids think they can sound like Hendrix/Clapton/Vai/your-virtuoso-here with the flip of a switch. Upon further reading, there's much more to it.

Finally, to tcobretti: could you defend your choice of wah in more detail? What makes the Vox smoke Crybabies?
posted by Schlimmbesserung at 10:53 PM on August 4, 2006

I started out electric and stayed pretty raw with it, but I guess it depends on what sounds you're looking for. The only effects I had were a stompbox delay and a Crybaby... but then again, I was pretty focused on just blues guitar.

Speaking to the Crybaby's quality, that thing was a rock, it took more spills, drops, dents, everything thrown at it and never skipped a beat. The sound was terrific, and obviously the model has a legacy in the history of music. People who obsess over their tone (every guitarist who ever existed, perhaps?) will relish that sort of authenticity. Then again, the Vox is an even beefier pedal with its own pretty good sound.
posted by empyrean at 5:00 AM on August 5, 2006

Best answer: The Vox and Crybabies are both made by Dunlop so they are in functionally identical cases that are practically indestructible. They also have almost identical circuitry in them. The differences are mostly just component choice (i.e. which capacitor to use where). Creating a good sounding wah circuit is all about "tuning" the circuit to sound good, and with the V847 they have found a combination that sounds great. To my ears, it has a much more pronounced "wah" sound than any crybaby I've heard (a wider sweep with a sharper Q), and it lacks the brittle treblyness that crybabies have.

One wah component people argue about constantly is the inductor. Some people swear it's critical, some people say it doesn't matter that much IF you tune the pedal to the inductor you have. The Crybabies are notorious for using crappo inductors, while for some reason the Voxes are given better ones. It could certainly be the difference between my pedals - one of the things I never swapped in my crybaby was its inductor.

Wah info for the technically inclined.
posted by tcobretti at 8:05 AM on August 5, 2006 [1 favorite]

I have never heard a multi-effect wah sound as good as the old standby Crybaby.

For a student budget, I recommend the following combination:

Simple Boss multi-effects pedal, like the GT-6 or the like. Boss has great chorus sounds, good distortions, and great compression/eq/delay effects.

And a Crybaby. Or Vox wah.
posted by chimaera at 4:20 PM on August 5, 2006

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