My musical and gear related epiphanies......
1965: Discovered "Music" AKA "The Monkees"
1972: Discovered "Real Music" AKA Blue Oyster Cult
1995: Got my first "real guitar"....a $600 Fender American Standard, after playing various POS for the prior 30+ years.
2002: Got my first Tube amp....a Peavey Classic 30, but I finally realized that some amps did not use solid state circuitry and needed a minute or so to "warm up".
2003: First quality guitar....2000 CU 24
And the rest, as they say, is history.
Yeah, Les, I know what you're saying about dynamic range. What I'm really talking about is the connection between the guitar and amp, by which I mean "finger dynamics" (what I do to the guitar) translate as directly as possible to "sound dynamics," i.e., what comes out of the speaker.
In terms of the pedalboard thing, I've typically eschewed getting into the kind of complexity that I would actually need, given that I am very fond of vintage (or vintage-type) fuzzes and wahs, which only work right if they see an unbuffered signal directly from the guitar, and at the other end I typically run two amps, where it's desirable to have an A/B switch where I can lift the ground on the signal to one amp and flip the phase, but that means an active switcher which ends up being pretty lossy even when there's a buffer ahead of it.
The unity gain buffer in the Walker seems to work better than a buffer in the pedal loop, not sure why, maybe because the one I have actually adds a little high end. (note: of course it's switchable so when I want to use my fuzz it works) With other guitars, I use a Bob Burt Clean Boost which effectively does the same thing -- I set it at more or less unity gain, level-wise, so it adds a bit of high-end definition without adding gain.
More and more, though, I've adopted the Kimockian strategy of "unplug the s**t when you're not using it." I've always done that for recording, but playing live with my rock band I've adopted that strategy as well. It helps that the majority of what we play is the kind of thing that you SHOULD be plugging straight into the amp. (which seems to be a lost art, based on the live music I've seen over the past bunch of years anyway!)
Oh, btw, one gear-related epiphany that popped into mind when I read docbennett's post:
1971: at a cast party following a production of Jesus Christ Superstar (for which I'd played the acoustic guitar parts) I heard The Allman Brothers at Fillmore East for the first time. I was mesmerized by the sound of those guitars, and the guy (several years older than me) who had played the electric guitars in the show explained to me that those were old Gibson Les Paul Standards. Although by then I was very into electric guitars and guitarists, that was the first time I connected a particular sound with a particular model of guitar.
My game changer was in 1995... Walked into EU Wurlitzer in Boston with a pocket full of kryptonite, fully prepared to buy a Les Paul Classic goldtop. Saw 2 brand new McCartys hanging together, one in Emerald Green(my fave color since childhood) and a goldtop. I was kinda smitten, especially since I had sampled a '94 McCarty the year previous at a shop and was pretty impressed. Fate was kind that day, and there was a REALLY good Marshall JMP from the 70's with a light mod that sounded MAGIC and was a GREAT platform for testing tone. I plugged all three in, and the McCartys OWNED that Les Paul Classic. Then it was a matter of which one to buy. Bought the Green one for $1700 and it was so good in the next month of gigs that I didn't play my other guitars anymore(a different Les Paul and an Ibenhad USA custom with mahog/maple). I sold the ibenhad for $700, took that cash in with the Les Paul and worked out a deal for the goldtop mcccarty for $1500 with $800 trade value on the Les Paul and out the door I went with the goldtop sister to the emerald green mccarty that I had bought the month before. At that time, the goldtop and black opaque versions were called McCarty Standards and were priced less, even though they still had maple tops. SWEET deal. Those two mccartys tought me what vintage tone could be, and got me into the wonderful world of playability and vibe of PRS. I gigged the snot out of that pair till 2001, and even managed to find and reepurchase the green one again in the late 2000's.
Forgot another much more recent epiphany.....reading "Dave Hunter's Guide to Pedals". Explains why different effects go in front of the amp vs. the effects loop...helps one to really understand how to get the most out of various pedals and provides interesting history and interviews with the most prominant pedal manufactures from the '60's to the present.
Vintage type fuzzes and wahs are my favorites, too. But a vintage type fuzz works fine with a buffered signal ahead of it; for a long time my own signal chain has been vintage style wah, buffer, vintage fuzz. The buffer eliminates the squeal you get when a vintage fuzz follows a wah.
Originally Posted by kingsleyd
This is also what Fulltone has done by adding a switchable buffer in line with the output of their Clyde Deluxe, so vintage fuzzes can follow it. Teese also incorporates a buffer into their vintage style wahs' outputs for the same purpose, though I don't remember if it's switchable. I once had one.
The vintage style fuzzes I've used successfully with buffers have been the Austone Fuzz Nutz (wonderful pedal) and the Fulltone '69, both of which use the old style germanium transistors, and both of which do crazy squealing if they follow an unbuffered wah. But the buffer seems to need to be between the wah and the fuzz. Like you, I've not had good luck with vintage wahs following buffers.
Then again, I loaned my true original '66 Maestro Fuzz to a nephew quite a few years ago, and he lost it! But the modern versions of the vintage fuzzes do work well.
I do like the Kimock strategy, but there's another one that's not bad given how little I enjoy crawling around on the floor adjusting pedals during a session: bypass the whole pedalboard (or just take out what you're not using) with a switch box! Is there a very slight difference in tone? Not sure it's much different than using a cable that's a few feet longer, and it goes away with a buffered signal. Anyway, that's my solution.
Les, in the scenario you describe (wah, buffer, fuzz) do you get the same interactivity between guitar volume and fuzz that you do when plugged directly into the fuzz? The whole thing I love about vintage or vintage-type fuzzes (btw, I'm partial to the Analog SunFace and AstroTone, as well as Theo Hartman's germanium fuzz) is the dynamic behavior they exhibit when I change the volume level coming from the guitar. I lose that with the Walker's buffered output. (which, happily, can be switched out; the guitar can be run in passive/high-impedance mode as well as active/low-Z)
I haven't noticed a major difference from what I expected when putting pedals on the board, but honestly also haven't tried it both ways in a very long time. I'll put the buffer in a bypass loop to be able to switch it in and out, and that should provide an answer. The bypass switch box is a passive device and adds nothing to the signal, so it should be a pretty good test. I'll report back on how that works with my buffer box (which of course might be different from yours anyway).
Originally Posted by kingsleyd
I like the Analogman Sunface a lot. Great fuzz. Haven't tried the others!
Narrowfield pickups... total game changer for me.
Modern Eagle 1, NF P-ups, 408 P-ups, Pernny Necks.................................. I'm sure there are more for me :rock:
Back in 2004 my dad wanted to build me a proper pedalboard, so I shipped him all my stuff (he was in WA and I was in CA). This is when I actually learned how to play guitar. Without overdrive and delay/wah distractions, I dug in with my '03 McCarty straight into a Dr. Carmen Ghia and learned the beauty of a clean amp, power tube overdrive, using my volume knob to clean things up, etc. My chops improved substantially and my whole outlook on things changed. I was a ham-fisted metal guy then, and for the first time I understood DYNAMICS. I ended up with a lovely pedalboard, but the clarity I found in my playing was the real gift.
Custom 22 really changed everything for me, rid me of the bulk of a LP - much easier and comfortable playing.
For me the biggest was a McCarty Standard - I'm not sure if it altered my playing so much, but really helped me focus and hone in my tone and what I was after. Still my favorite model overall. I have one with 5708s as my "classic" and one with HFS for my "metal".