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  • Gain staging pedals and effects

    Hi.

    Just curious if anybody gain stages their pedals and effects (as you would, or SHOULD anyway, with plug-ins in your DAW)???

    If there a point to even attempting to do this???

    Using something like this maybe:



    In other words: is there a point to ensuring that the input/output levels throughout the chain remain constant (unless you are specifically adding boost at some given point in the chain)???

    Does anybody do this???

    I suppose the main reason I ask is because I have modelling amps. (Marshall CODE amps.) and they are EXTREMELY susceptible to even the slightest change in input levels (affects distortion and gain hugely). And if you've got three different guitars all with different pickups and output levels well, then, it can become "challenging" (for want of a better word).

    I have spent some time looking around the Internet but the info. out there seems a bit "iffy" (again for want of a better word).

    Regards,

    Dale.

  • #2
    Re: Gain staging pedals and effects

    I'm not currently, I have heard of it being done. The thing to remember is that it works really well to hit the front end of a tube amp really hard to get it to compress more and it sounds good (most of the time), hitting digital with too hot of a signal can introduce digital clipping which doesn't sound good unless you are Trent Reznor.

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    • #3
      Re: Gain staging pedals and effects

      I run certain pedals at Unity through them and others smacked with elevated gain on the front end from the previous pedal's boost depending on how the pedal reacts, what sound I'm trying to achieve through the output, if I'm switching the pedal in and out (if so how does the buffer headroom interact) and ultimately what level above the unity level through modulation do I need at the pre amp input of an amplifier.

      At the end of the chain, I have an Xotic EP booster in line (for an always on boost) to hit my Tremelo with a very high level because it performs and sounds better.

      At the front of the chain I use a Greer Lamplighter compressor and hit it with an Archer IKON Gold or and an MXR Custom Badass -The compressor knocks the boost down but makes it super fat.

      I run Unity through the Boss GE-7 and through modulation effects
      Last edited by NegativeEase; 12-13-2018, 12:59 PM. Reason: spelling
      “For me, when everything goes wrong – that’s when adventure starts.” Yvonne Chouinard

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      • #4
        Re: Gain staging pedals and effects

        I have only done it with tube amps and have gotten some stellar results. I always play with some type of overdrive/distortion and a boost of some type. I think the king of gain staging is The Rev Billy, he has a very intresting signal chain.

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        • #5
          Re: Gain staging pedals and effects

          Just by ear. Some pedals/effects I want unity, others I want boost. I use tube amps that respond favorably to increased input level. When I had modeling amps, they hated being boosted and I found I got the best sounds by simply tweaking the built in effects as opposed to using external effects.

          In terms of different outputs for different guitars, I asked this several years ago and the overwhelming response was “that’s why I use different guitars, to sound different.” Now I might put an EP Booster at the beginning of the chain to slightly fatten and boost a low output Strat, but for the most part it’s plug it in and go. That might go back to the previous point, my primary amp is a Princeton Reverb, pretty easy to get compressing so there isn’t much of a volume difference between guitars, more of a tonal difference.
          Oh no.....


          Oh Yeah!

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          • #6
            Re: Gain staging pedals and effects

            Hell (again) everyone.

            Don't I know you all from somewhere else??? LOL!!!



            Originally posted by devastone View Post
            hitting digital with too hot of a signal can introduce digital clipping which doesn't sound good
            Yeh. That's pretty much why I've been wondering about this. For one thing and as you know: I pretty much only use wireless but I'm pretty much having to guess level adjustments depending on which guitar is plugged in. One guitar may sound great with the wireless receivers output levels set, at, say 3 'o clock. But then with another guitar (the one with the DM SD in it at present for example) I have to dial back the wireless receivers output SUBSTANTIALLY otherwise everything is just "too much". So I was kinda figuring that if I could find out the exact output coming from a particular guitar using an instrument cable I could then use that as the "standard" or "yardstick" and obviously clearly mark the different levels for each guitar on the wireless receivers. Dunno if that makes sense. And I also never know if a signal is being clipped or not (only the wireless receivers inform me of this if the gain on the transmitter for a particular guitar is set too high).



            Originally posted by NegativeEase View Post
            I run certain pedals at Unity through them and others smacked with elevated gain on the front end front the previous pedals boost depending on how the pedal reacts, what sound I'm trying to achieve through the output, if I'm switching the pedal in and out (if so how does the buffer headroom interact) and ultimately what level about unity do I need at the pre amp input of an amplifier.

            At the end of the chain, I have an Xotic EP booster in line (for an always on boost) to hit my Tremelo with a very high level because it performs and sounds better.

            At the front of the chain I use a Greer Lamplighter compressor and hit it with an Archer IKON Gold or and an MXR Custom Badass -The compressor knocks the boost down but makes it super fat.

            I run Unity through the Boss GE-7 and through modulation effects
            Again yet another reason for me wondering about this. A supposed unity gain setting on one pedal is not the same as on another. Like with the Boss GE-7: unity gain as far as I know is when the level slider is in the middle (pretty hard to muck that one up). But like with the Boss DD-7 it is SUPPOSED to be at 3 'o clock but I dunno if I trust that information to be honest (because it doesn't "click in" like with the GE-7).

            Also and with my amps. what I've found is that if you lift, for example, a certain frequency on the DD-7 then you have to compensate by lowering the output level i.e. with my amps. they seem to interpret a frequency boost as being "a frequency boost PLUS a increase in input level" which increases distortion proportionately.



            Originally posted by Securb View Post
            I have only done it with tube amps and have gotten some stellar results. I always play with some type of overdrive/distortion and a boost of some type. I think the king of gain staging is The Rev Billy, he has a very intresting signal chain.

            [ATTACH=CONFIG]94515[/ATTACH]

            [ATTACH=CONFIG]94514[/ATTACH]
            As you say: that is a pretty interesting signal chain!!! LOL!!! And I thought I was complicating matters!!! LOL!!!



            Suppose what I'm getting at (and dunno if this is done hence my asking) is that if I could gain stage the (few) pedals that I have i.e. so that the given initial output from the guitar doesn't increase (or decrease for that matter) after each pedal no matter whether the pedal is off or on. Then when I want boost I boost on the amps. themselves (which have their own footcontrollers which are independent of the stompbox chain). This should keep the amp. distortion and any possible clipping "in check" not???

            Regards,

            Dale.
            Last edited by dpaterson; 12-13-2018, 01:26 PM.

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            • #7
              Re: Gain staging pedals and effects

              Originally posted by PFDarkside View Post
              When I had modeling amps, they hated being boosted and I found I got the best sounds by simply tweaking the built in effects as opposed to using external effects.

              In terms of different outputs for different guitars, I asked this several years ago and the overwhelming response was “that’s why I use different guitars, to sound different.” Now I might put an EP Booster at the beginning of the chain to slightly fatten and boost a low output Strat, but for the most part it’s plug it in and go. That might go back to the previous point, my primary amp is a Princeton Reverb, pretty easy to get compressing so there isn’t much of a volume difference between guitars, more of a tonal difference.
              Pretty much what I'm finding I think (the "hated being boosted" thing that is).

              Noticed this with my Boss SD-1. Never quite know where to set the darn thing. But I've kinda worked out it's better to set the output level higher and the drive lower and let the amps. deal with what's coming their way out of it. Just wondering if there's not a more "scientific" method of getting these levels right I guess (not to sure I trust my ears for this kind of thing) ("tone" no problem!!! LOL!!!).

              Oh well. Food for thought.

              (Possibly a moot point too though i.e. apparently next year I have to ditch the lot and go buy some "hot rodded" JCM800 full stacks and have done with it!!! LOL!!!).

              Regards,

              Dale.

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: Gain staging pedals and effects

                Originally posted by dpaterson View Post
                Hell (again) everyone.
                Again yet another reason for me wondering about this. A supposed unity gain setting on one pedal is not the same as on another. Like with the Boss GE-7: unity gain as far as I know is when the level slider is in the middle (pretty hard to muck that one up). But like with the Boss DD-7 it is SUPPOSED to be at 3 'o clock but I dunno if I trust that information to be honest (because it doesn't "click in" like with the GE-7).
                This is correct -all pedals are different based on the headroom and type or reaction to high gain -there isn't a perfect level like with professional audio +4dB 1.23V or -10dBV 316 mVolts for Consumer unbalanced -it's much more subjective on a case by case basis

                Originally posted by dpaterson View Post
                Also and with my amps. what I've found is that if you lift, for example, a certain frequency on the DD-7 then you have to compensate by lowering the output level i.e. with my amps. they seem to interpret a frequency boost as being "a frequency boost PLUS a increase in input level" which increases distortion proportionately.
                . Yep, if you want Unity -for every band that rises the master must be lowered and the opposite is true.

                Originally posted by dpaterson View Post
                I suppose what I'm getting at (and dunno if this is done hence my asking) is that if I could gain stage the (few) pedals that I have i.e. so that the given initial output from the guitar doesn't increase (or decrease for that matter) after each pedal no matter whether the pedal is off or on. Then when I want boost I boost on the amps. themselves (which have their own footcontrollers which are independent of the stompbox chain). This should keep the amp. distortion "in check" not???\

                Regards,

                Dale.
                you are talking about maintaining unity gain through the entire pedal chain and boosting at the amp preamp with an amp switching pedal? - this will preserve more of your guitar's original sound and preserve more clarity and detail in the overall sound usually -depending on your Amp and boost type.
                “For me, when everything goes wrong – that’s when adventure starts.” Yvonne Chouinard

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                • #9
                  Re: Gain staging pedals and effects

                  Here's a thought:

                  What about determining the output level from a guitar and then putting white or pink noise through the stompbox chain at the same level as the guitar signal was at and then using an audio interface and VST level meters to calibrate??? Then just mark on the pedals (and whatever else) where "true" unity gain is for each pedal and for the stompbox chain as a whole???

                  (Sorry: these things come to me as I type them!!! LOL!!!).

                  Regards,

                  Dale.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: Gain staging pedals and effects

                    Originally posted by NegativeEase View Post
                    you are talking about maintaining unity gain through the entire pedal chain and boosting at the amp preamp with an amp switching pedal? - this will preserve more of your guitar's original sound and preserve more clarity and detail in the overall sound usually -depending on your Amp and boost type.
                    Exactly. Remember I have 100 preset slots on the amps. themselves so I can simply duplicate a particular preset, assign that to another patch on the footcontrollers, and adjust volume, gain, or whatever else for that particular "boost" preset. So I'm (would be) boosting at the amp. not before the amp.

                    Maybe my little situation is unique??? Dunno. Was just wondering if this type of thing is actually bothered about generally is all (even with tubes).

                    Regards,

                    Dale.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: Gain staging pedals and effects

                      Originally posted by dpaterson View Post
                      Was just wondering if this type of thing is actually bothered about generally is all (even with tubes).
                      99% of the time, no, not to this detail. Turn knobs until it sounds good, remember those settings, or at least where the ballpark is.

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                      • #12
                        Re: Gain staging pedals and effects

                        I goose the front of my amp with a Friedman Buxom Boost but otherwise I don’t really gain stage. I don’t really need to with a Quickrod.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: Gain staging pedals and effects

                          Billy F. Gibbons is one of the biggest tone BSers out there... from "amp cabins" to a line of Expandoras...

                          10 bucks says there's an old vintage fender hidden away somewhere.
                          Lefty Lounge Lizard's Guitars & Amps Extravaganza

                          Fastest ears in the West

                          "BS doesn't fly"

                          My Soundcloud

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                          • #14
                            Re: Gain staging pedals and effects

                            I used to "gain stage" in the 80s with my old BOSS pedalboard and BOSS stomps... OD into Distortion into etc...

                            No wonder I sounded like thin, tinny, buzzy ****.
                            Lefty Lounge Lizard's Guitars & Amps Extravaganza

                            Fastest ears in the West

                            "BS doesn't fly"

                            My Soundcloud

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Re: Gain staging pedals and effects

                              Originally posted by LLL View Post
                              Billy F. Gibbons is one of the biggest tone BSers out there... from "amp cabins" to a line of Expandoras...

                              10 bucks says there's an old vintage fender hidden away somewhere.
                              i agreed with you he is a huge bs artist when it comes to what he is using. no way he used all those expandoras for anything but maybe a bit part in the studio or something silly. his live rig hasnt changed much since he went to the jmp1 preamp and the eq. back in the day it was a lot of brown deluxe and tweed amps in the studio. hell, the brown deluxe was a live amp for a long time too

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