Noise IMHO is the main bugaboo of pedals, and it will kill your sound.
One thing I'd like to discuss about pedals is powering them, because that can be pretty important, not just in terms of convenience but how the rig sounds, especially if you have an amp that doesn't make a lot of extraneous noise -- for example, the PRS HX/DA I play through is dead quiet even with the gain up until I hit a note. Two-Rocks and some other amps of note are also very quiet in terms of hum and noise.
After many years in the studio, I'm a stickler for eliminating hum and noise, because I am certain that audio signal coming out of a quiet background sounds crisper, more dynamic, and just plain better than signal coming out of a hashy or noisy background.
This means that the noise that often comes from a pedal board can interfere with the integrity of a player's tone.
Unfortunately it's very easy to get hums and buzzes when pedals are wired up, and if you have ground loop city on your pedalboard, even the best cables are going to let you hear all that hum and noise clear as day. And some pedals are susceptible to noise from nearby wall warts, etc., though IMHO the ones that are really well designed are far less likely to react to stray EMI/RFI.
I've done a lot of experimenting, found that the easiest solution to this problem is to use a high quality, fully-isolated, well-shielded power supply, like the ones made by Voodoo Labs (and a few others, but caveat emptor, there are power supplies on the market that simply suck).
It's also important to use the power supply as the designers intended, that is, only one pedal per isolated outlet. In the case of a paired outlet (for example, you often see a pair of 9V and 12V outlets meant to be either/or, but not both), yeah you can sometimes run a pedal into each one, but you then lose the benefit of the isolation, and you get noise, as I will explain below. I have found that even the Boss TU2 and TU3 with the extra outlet will cause noise if you create a daisy-chain using other pedals, because the extra outlet is not isolated. Yeah, it's convenient as an emergency thing, but not the way to go if you have a lot of stuff on your board.
As an experiment over the weekend, I tried a variety of pedals using the extra Boss TU3 power outlet, and using the extra outlet of a paired set of outlets on my Voodoo Labs power supply, just to see what would happen. In both cases I was careful to make sure that the power draw of the attached pedals did not exceed the available power.
And in all cases, my board went from absolutely dead quiet, to the creation of a very low-level, almost imperceptible hum that I could hear from my amp. Even though the hum wasn't bad, it was audible, and it's that kind of thing that screws with your tone. Worse, when I tried a digital pedal with a tap tempo, and later tried a very well designed analog tremolo pedal, I could hear a slight ticking.
When I reconnected the pedals as the unit was designed, the hum and the ticking went away. Period. No noise whatsoever.
I'm convinced that the smart thing to do if you run out of power outlets for your power supply is simply to buy a second power supply and use that instead of trying to create daisy chains, etc., because these days you can buy a small power supply with 5-6 outlets for around $100, such as the Voodoo Labs iso5, and it really does a better job than trying to create daisy chains of various kinds.
The next issue with some pedals is that certain pedals are not well shielded, and are VERY susceptible to picking up noise from nearby wall warts, or power supplies that are poorly shielded. And this problem is made worse if there are any ground loops, etc, because ground loops tend to act like antennas for noise.
Manufacturers like TC, Fulltone, etc., shield their products properly, and/or use steel casings that tend to reject RFI/EMI. A Fulltone wah will not pick up noise like some of the other wahs out there (by the way, I've found that the typical cast wah casings don't work as well as steel ones), and I'm sure this is the case with any of the good manufacturers -- but I've had wahs and other pedals by builders that go absolutely bonkers if a wall wart is within 5 feet of the pedal board. So that's something to check for. If you have noise, the first thing to try is move the darn wall warts farther away (and frankly, if I had a pedal that reacted to wall warts badly, I'd get rid of it, but that's just me)!
Anyway, hope this info helps, as it does make a difference!
Awesome information, thanks for sharing.
Originally Posted by LSchefman
Not to de-rail, but a related question. What is your experience/opinion of the Furman rack power supplies? They have some that are economically priced, and some that are outrageously expensive. Are any of those units truly isolated in a similar manner to the Voodoo boxes?
Back when I had my studio I used a Furman IT-1220 power balancer. It converted the whole studio to +60/-60. The noise floor dropped significantly.
The latest version (P-2400 IT) is considerably more expensive but I'm told the problem with the transformer "ringing" has been resolved.
I loved playing my Roland Fantom X8 and setting my Mackie HR-24's loud enough to feel the sampled Grand Piano. But at that volume there was a districting hiss. Once I installed balanced power, I often forgot the power amp was on. It was dead quiet.
They're totally different, and serve different purposes. I will explain below.
Originally Posted by Blackbird
My genius studio tech created a balanced 2000 Volt isolation transformer for me by modifying a SOLA isolation transformer back in the 90s. He passed away recently and I miss him. He was brilliant. But the SOLA created so much mechanical noise that we had to isolate it in the HVAC room, and it also weighed about 150 pounds.
Originally Posted by ]-[ @ n $ 0 |v| a T ! ©
Enter the IT-1220 into my world about 12 years ago, and later the Equi=Tech system that does the same thing with more outlets.
Balanced power supplies and isolation transformers like the IT-1220 (I had one for years) and the Equi=Tech supply I currently use in my studio are designed to do two things:
First, isolate the incoming AC completely from the incoming power line and thereby eliminate outside noise, and;
Second, to create a Balanced Power Source that reduces hum and noise in a studio system by working like a balanced mic line or humbucking pickup: the two legs of the AC line are out-of-phase 180 degrees, thereby cancelling induced hum and noise from things like power cords on your studio gear that might otherwise be radiating into your signal wiring, etc.
All things being equal, this should reduce the noise floor of a studio by about 8-14 db, and I measured about a 10 db improvement in my system when I first installed my IT-1220 (I got a larger AC system later on, which is why I don't use the 1220 any more).
So Hans had and heard the results with a correctly wired studio operating on balanced power, and that's a good thing!
HOWEVER, balanced power has NOTHING to do with pedal or other equipment ground loops, it will not solve them, nor is it designed to, and it has nothing whatsoever to do with guitar pedals. Zero.
It does not take the place of a pedal power supply with isolated outputs for pedal power.
Understand that the thing that causes noise on most guitar pedal boards is simply the existence of ground loops, and this is because most pedals have different grounding schemes, and are inexpensive and not designed with big time power supplies built in that would require AC cords, etc.
The reduced noise floor inherent in a balanced power system is for studio gear, primarily gear equipped with 3 prong grounded plugs, and is NOT intended or designed to prevent problems caused by the typical guitar pedalboard wiring systems and various ground loops.
In fact, most studios using balanced power STILL make use of proper grounding techniques, such as star grounding and so on. I'll repeat: balanced AC power and advanced filtering do NOT solve ground loops!
In other words, these boxes do NOTHING for your pedals, in the sense that you still need to wire the pedals properly and isolate their grounds from EACH OTHER to prevent ground loops.
This is what a proper isolated pedal power supply will do.
But there is no doubt that the balanced AC boxes like the IT-1220 work and work well FOR THEIR INTENDED PURPOSE. And that purpose is not to isolate ground loops, it is to reduce the hum and noise radiated into adjacent signal cables from AC cords, etc, and to isolate the outside AC from your studio.
As for the rack mount "power conditioners." let me explain their very different purpose:
These were originally marketed because early digital gear was very, very susceptible to spikes and surges that would scramble their digital memories. A small brownout or power surge would literally crash computers, de-program synths and digital boxes like my old Eventide Ultra Harmonizer and TC M5000.
And so two kinds of "power conditioners" were used: The first and more expensive ones regulated the current to a degree so you'd get a standard 120V. The second was merely a glorified surge protector.
This was needed somewhat in the old days, if you gigged or had a studio in an area subject to AC problems, BUT modern power supplies on computers and digital gear are much better and these "power conditioners" wind up being truly unnecessary. If you have old (by this I mean 1980s or 1990s) digital gear in a studio, they might be a good idea.
Also, unless it's very well designed and manufactured, a surge protector's EMI/RFI filtering can actually add noise. My studio tech demonstrated this to me on his oscilloscope.
In any event, these boxes do absolutely NOTHING for guitar pedals. The do not isolate your pedalboard's pedal power outlets unless they are made for pedal boards AND have individually isolated outlets FOR EACH PEDAL.
I hope this explanation is clear, and helps.
Sure! It is definitely confusing is I have things laid out for memory and ease of hitting and not particularly in order.
Originally Posted by DirtyMoonsRJT
Guitar goes into the Red Analog Man Sun Bender. It's a Germanium fuzz and it HATES my buffered TU-3 in front of it. The Flashback pedal is the last stop before it hits two Blackface Fender amps.
So it goes Analog Man Sun Bender > BOSS TU-3 Tuner > Joe Bonamassa Crybaby (in true bypass mode) > MXR Script Phase 90 w/ LED > Keeley C4 Compressor > Xotic RC Booster > Xotic EP Booster > Fulltone Fulldrive II MOSFET > Mojo Hand FX Rook > ZVex Box Of Rock > JHS SuperBolt > Fulltone OCD v4 > Mojo Hand Clementine Booster > JHS Prestige Buffer > MXR Carbon Copy Analog Delay > TC Flashback Delay
The RC Boost is always on for a basic "tone sweetening". It's set more as an EQ and tone shaping move basically. I like what it does to my cleans. The EP Boost is to match volume from single coils to my humbuckers as I play humbuckers mostly and my levels are set for humbucker pickups (set quieter for higher output pickups). The orange Clementine pedal is my solo boost. It boosts my volume a lot and adds some grit and squeeze. It's based on the old Dan Armstrong Orange Squeezer. The last interesting pedal is the JHS Prestige (gold pedal). It's a buffer and is always on. I set it at unity but it pretty much ensures that I lose no high end. So with the buffered TU-3 and the Prestige at the nether ends of the chain, I lose no signal.
The rest are your average delays, phaser, compressor, and OD/Distortion choices. My new favorite is the Mojo Hand Rook pedal. It's like having a Klon and a TS808 in one box with a switch. And a killer clean boost. I use it in the Klonish setting (all the way down) as I'm using the FDII for my TS type sound. I saw it on Brad Whitford's pedalboard and had to try it out.
Thanks! Yes these are my favorites too. The Bonamassa Wah is killer - so very throaty and "smoky". Sounds like the original italian wah's to my ears.
Originally Posted by aduayer
Thats outstanding info on power supplies and cableing, guys...and something I had not even considered. Thank You!
I got my TC Polytune in the mail today and i already love it! I always considered the tuner on my GT6 a "good tuner", but after plugging in the Polytune to my SC I found my inntonation a bit flat on my low E and my B strings. Not much, but I'm completely anal about my inntonation and if the TC just helped me improve upon that, I'm very satisfied with the purchase.
I haven't pulled trigger on a distortion pedal yet, but have been trying to research as much as possible. Whoever recommended proguitarshop.com gets a thumbs up, the videos are awesome! I've noticed a few PRS's being played in some of them too ;) I've got a short list of distortion pedals that I thought sounded good, but still have a ton more to listen to. The Mad Prof Stone Grey, Mad Prof Might Red, LovePedal Red Head, Keeler Designs Shoved Distortion, Rothwell Switchblade and MXR M116 Fullbore all caught my attention so if any of you own or recomend any of those i would love to hear what you think about them.
Come on guys, we've come this far, dont leave me hangin now!
Well, it looks like you want to listen to ALL of them before deciding - good luck :) Generally I'd recommend something that gives the broadest range of tones. Some OD/Distortion pedals have only one tone knob while others have two (low/high) and others three (low/mid/high). Some more sophisticated pedals have a separate clean boost channel and a "Voice" (amp simulator) control. Have a look at the amazingly affordable line of pedals from Joyo - very positive reviews and you can buy four of them (maybe more) for the typical cost of a designer pedal.
Originally Posted by Boogeyman
TC Nova Modulator, TC Hall of Fame Reverb, TC Flashback Delay, Dunlop Volume Pedal & TC Poly Mini-Tuner