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Thread: The Age Old Debate about Dirt ( Pedal or Amp )

  1. #1
    Senior Member Harker1440's Avatar
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    The Age Old Debate about Dirt ( Pedal or Amp )

    Ok this is one of those questions that there is no Right or Wrong answer, its all a matter of taste. I am curious to see where my fellow forum members stand with this question.

    Personally I like my dirt to be created by the amp which is why I tend to gravitate towards Tube amps that have a decent amount of gain in the pre amp section. Up until recently I never liked how a clean amp dialed to almost break point sounded when pushed by a pedal to get to break up. Like I said personal preference. Recently Ive discovered certain pedals that sound pretty good pushing amps to breakup though I will wont go that route full time with my rig Ive found a combination of pedals that will allow me to recreate " My Tone " in the event that my main amp is out of service. Watching PRSh demo his new "Paul's Amp"
    MDT I learned that he likes the amp to be the source of the dirt as well.

    For the Record my Main Gig Rig is:
    PRS Signature LTD with Trem
    20th Anni Bogner Shiva with Reverb into a Bogner OS 2x12


    My backup amp: Crate Powerblock and a Bogner Red Ecstasy Pedal which pretty closely mimics my Shiva


    So where do you stand in the Dirt Debate? What set up are you running to get your tone

  2. #2
    Quote Originally Posted by Harker1440 View Post
    So where do you stand in the Dirt Debate? What set up are you running to get your tone
    Harker, like you, I prefer to get my dirt from a tube amp, unless I'm looking for a particular special effect, like fuzz or a particular overdrive sound. And of course a dirt pedal or fuzz adds a very different character to modulation pedals like Univibe or wah.

    However good an overdrive pedal might sound - and I really like the sound of a few of them - an overdrive transistor circuit is different in texture from an overdriven tube circuit. In fact, an overdriven tube circuit's texture depends in part on the power tube types being run, but that's another story.

    So it's nice to have a pedal or several on your board, but for me, the main question becomes, "How good is the amp?"

    My current rig is an HX/DA, with PRS guitars. I like the Sig a lot, but also do a lot of work with the SC58 and A-V. This is the most "me" rig I've ever had the pleasure to run, and I'm really happy with it. In fact, I'm a little fearful that PRS might change or discontinue the HX/DA before I can afford a backup!

    For recording, I tend to use a Royer 121 or Shure SM57, and sometimes an Audix i5 with the amp. Whatever the track demands, I go with.
    Last edited by LSchefman; 01-23-2013 at 01:25 PM.

  3. #3
    Cream Crackered Mikegarveyblues's Avatar
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    Both pedals and amp.

    Up until i got my Laney I never had an amp that had a gain channel I loved. Had a couple of Marshalls but I hated the gain on those amps and the gain on non modelling practice amps isn't worth talking about. I'm not including modelling amps in this... Just valve and solid state amps.

    My Laney has a beautiful gain channel. There isn't loads of it but it's just this really sweet, musical (well duh!) sounding overdrive.

    I use my pedals a lot too though. Just depends on what sound i'm going for.

    I think overall having an amp with a good gain channel isn't hugely important to me. The clean has to be good though.
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  4. #4
    Senior Member jfb's Avatar
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    Amp. Amp. Amp.

    But I really long to buy dirt pedals. No idea why.

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by jfb View Post
    Amp. Amp. Amp.

    But I really long to buy dirt pedals. No idea why.
    When my two year old grandson came to visit, his eyes popped out when he saw my pedal board, and he excitedly yelled, "I wanna play with those trucks!" I guess the colors and shapes, with the round GeorgeL's right angle plugs sticking out like little wheels, turned him on.

    Maybe you simply like "trucks."
    Last edited by LSchefman; 01-23-2013 at 01:35 PM.

  6. #6
    Senior Member jfb's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LSchefman View Post
    When my two year old grandson came to visit, his eyes popped out when he saw my pedal board, and he excitedly yelled, "I wanna play with those trucks!" I guess the colors and shapes, with the round GeorgeL's right angle jacks sticking out like little wheels, turned him on.

    So I'm guessing you simply like "trucks."
    I have been thinking about making my next vehicle an SUV. I think you're on to something.

  7. #7
    DGT Club President BostonGuitar's Avatar
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    Whenever possible, I feel I sound most like me with a midgain(1:00ish) sound from my Shiva with EL-34s into my '73 marshall 4x12 WITH NOTHING ELSE.

    However, I like to be able to play many things and I am in a band that needs "more"... Even more than the Shiva with the the gain dimed(5:00). So with any riffs that are showcased(me playing alone as a signature intro to a song) I will run the shiva with the gain dimed with either a fulltone plimsoul in front(gain on 0, level at 1:00, hi-cut at about 9:00, and stage 2 at about 9:30) when the riff needs cut and presence without losing lows, or with an EP booster in front at about 11:00 when I need accentuated lows without losing highs or mids for riffs that need to chug some air.

    All this being said, I know I can take my plimsoul in a pinch and put it in most any clean amp and get a full bodied marshallesque tone I am accustomed to. This is due to it's stage 2 knob which brings forth hard clipping that is very powertube/speakerlike gain to balance the large usable preamp soft clipping style gain the pedal has with the normal gain knob.
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  8. #8
    408 Sig Club President Twinfan's Avatar
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    Amp all the way for me. I love the three levels of dirt I can set on my 65 Amps Empire, which I footswitch between.

    Pedals just don't respond the same way as amp preamps, not matter how well they're designed/built, and even if they use valves they're usually not set up the same way as in an amp.

  9. #9
    I use an attenuator to control volume and put my levels on my HR Deville at the point that on the clean channel I am clean with single coils and breaking up with P90s and humbuckers. This covers a large portion of our set list with a tube screamer kicked in to push more on leads. I use the gain channel for a lot of classic rock stuff but sometimes instead have to use a higher gain distortion pedal on my clean channel for some heavier tones. I use a wide variety of settings on my strat with P-Rails for different tones and different breakup and use multiple guitars for different tones as well.

    Ummm, so I guess my answer is I use both amp and pedals.

  10. #10
    I don't really care much one way or the other...there is something about a pushed tube amp, but a nice rich clean pedal platform and the right box in front sounds pretty good as well. Whatever's needed I'm happy with.

  11. #11
    I need pedals because I love a variety of dirt, especially fuzz. It's not like I don't like getting gain from an amp, but it won't cover enough ground for me.

  12. #12
    Craig,

    I ABSOLUTELY prefer the natural gain that you get from a nice tube amp, as opposed to a pedal. The problem is age-old, as you articulated. If you find an amp that has killer natural distortion, the clean usually leaves much to be desired. Of course the inverse is true; the clean ones are never dirty enough and you have to add dirt pedals to get back to where you want to be. That's where the multi-channel amps come in. And then of course- as we have both found out through owning them- the 2-channels can't "live in the middle" as well as a single-channel does, ala Grissom's preferences and recommendations.

    There just does not seem to be "that perfect combination of all three", man. There just isn't. If there was, we'd all have the same amp and someone out there would be FILTHY RICH off of us. That said, Doug Sewell is building what I consider to be the absolute closest to that "perfect middleground" amps that are out there, imho. I have been through MANY amps over the years, and some of which just sounded plain BAD to me. I have NEVER plugged a PRS amp in and said, "That sounds bad." Quite the opposite, in fact. They all sound INCREDIBLE. Each one does certain things better than the next one, and it just depends on what sounds good to your ears, and where you want to be sonically. Unfortunately there's no easy answer to this. My recommendation is to stop flipping amps around (you've tried some of the very best on the market, man), because when you get to the leagues of the amps you've been through- you are really splitting hairs at that point. They will all give you what you need, and they all have something to offer. I'd stick with your rig for AT LEAST a year, gig the crap out of it, and really GET TO KNOW IT. The more you change stuff, the further away from a true "baseline of YOUR TONE" you get. It seems to me like an endless quest.

    I'd take the sound of an overdriven amp over a pedal ANY day.

    Where's my cab, by the way DANG IT??!!!

    Quote Originally Posted by LSchefman View Post
    ...My current rig is an HX/DA, with PRS guitars. I like the Sig a lot, but also do a lot of work with the SC58 and A-V. This is the most "me" rig I've ever had the pleasure to run, and I'm really happy with it...
    Les, what do you use to overdrive your HX/DA? Just curious...
    "You come around here with these... SOUL DESTROYERS... clad in some kinda paisley rittenou... I don't even know what rittenou means." -Greg Koch re: PRS amps

  13. #13
    PRS Faithful Solocaller's Avatar
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    I difinitely prefer the amp, but sometimes I just dig the sound of a cleanish amp being pushed with a nice overdrive pedal

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by martysnarf View Post
    Les, what do you use to overdrive your HX/DA? Just curious...
    I overdrive the amp using only the volume controls on the guitar.

    In fact, right now I don't have an OD pedal on my pedalboard, though I do have a fuzz, which I only use as an effect, not to push the amp over the top.

    Generally I'll set the amp's gain control so that I get a nice crunchy sound with the guitar volume at 6 or so. I can back off the guitar for a good clean tone, and roll the guitar volume up for more gain.

    I've always done it that way.

    With a PRS, I get useful tones pretty much anywhere I set the guitar's controls, especially with newer models. That ability to use the controls gives me a lot of creative choices.

    I only use OD pedals to color the signal in conjunction with, say, a Univibe or wah, not to overdrive the amp. I always set the OD pedals to unity gain. That way I can do my thing with the guitar's volume control.

    As a side note, I use the tone control like a treble booster sometimes. With a great amp, pushing the treble on the guitar will affect the distortion coloration. So I generally give myself plenty of room on the guitar's tone control.
    Last edited by LSchefman; 01-23-2013 at 04:24 PM.

  15. #15
    Geezer wilerty's Avatar
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    I come from another direction. I judge how an amp sounds clean first. You can't buy a pedal that makes an amp sound better clean.

    Tubes, wiring, pedals, pickups, processors, etc all can modify the sound. But clean ... is clean. Hum is another matter ... as are speakers.
    Last edited by wilerty; 01-24-2013 at 04:06 PM.
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  16. #16
    Member Richard Lainegard's Avatar
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    Depends on the gig.
    For clinics, workshops and fusion I opt for
    OD pedals (see my thread on the building of my latest board).
    But for larger stages and hard rock venues, I prefer amp distortion,
    especially if I'm the only guitarist, tends to "fill out" more.
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  17. #17
    Senior Member Harker1440's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wilerty View Post
    I come from another direction. I judge how an amps sounds clean first. You can't buy a pedal that makes an amp sound better clean.

    Tubes, wiring, pedals, pickups, processors, etc all can modify the sound. But clean ... is clean. Hum is another matter ... as are speakers.
    Nice Ive never looked at it like this before Thank You Sir!!

  18. #18
    Senior Member andy474x's Avatar
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    I have some OD pedals that I really like, but I just keep coming back to the distortion from my amp. Just sounds more natural to me. The thing with pedals is they aren't designed to match up perfectly to any one specific amp, so I have a hard time tone matching pedal settings to my clean tone, and getting it to sound as good as natural as the dirt tone from my amp. If I do use an OD pedal, I've found that they sound best in my rig when the clean tone has a bit of hair on it, and then set the pedal for a nice boost with the volume to drive the preamp, and secondarily bring in more pedal drive to taste.

    Strangely enough, the best OD pedal in my setup right now is a $50 Joyo clone of the Mad Professor Sweet Honey. Most transparent OD I've used, doesn't mess with the EQ of my tone. None of my other, significantly more expensive pedals do that, but if it works...
    -I'm no expert, but it seems to work and I haven't electrocuted myself yet. Which is pretty much the standard I live by.

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  19. #19
    Senior Member aduayer's Avatar
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    When you find an amp that distorts they way you like it, no pedal can beat it. I found some pretty good amps that I can have fun with, so I when you got one of those amps, that's it.
    from time to time you can't have your amp/cabinet set up, so that's why on my board I have the Bogner Ecstasy Red pedal. I used to have the Mesa Boogie VTwin, but this Red babe took it's place for those "Can't have my amp" situation.

  20. #20
    Quote Originally Posted by LSchefman View Post
    I overdrive the amp using only the volume controls on the guitar.

    In fact, right now I don't have an OD pedal on my pedalboard, though I do have a fuzz, which I only use as an effect, not to push the amp over the top.

    Generally I'll set the amp's gain control so that I get a nice crunchy sound with the guitar volume at 6 or so. I can back off the guitar for a good clean tone, and roll the guitar volume up for more gain.

    I've always done it that way.

    With a PRS, I get useful tones pretty much anywhere I set the guitar's controls, especially with newer models. That ability to use the controls gives me a lot of creative choices.

    I only use OD pedals to color the signal in conjunction with, say, a Univibe or wah, not to overdrive the amp. I always set the OD pedals to unity gain. That way I can do my thing with the guitar's volume control.

    As a side note, I use the tone control like a treble booster sometimes. With a great amp, pushing the treble on the guitar will affect the distortion coloration. So I generally give myself plenty of room on the guitar's tone control.
    Thanks Les!! This is great info; exactly what I was looking for. Thanks for sharing!
    "You come around here with these... SOUL DESTROYERS... clad in some kinda paisley rittenou... I don't even know what rittenou means." -Greg Koch re: PRS amps

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