The latest incarnation of the main pedal board is ready for service at the next gig, which should be soon and I’m really happy with the variation of tones now available at my feet. What I used for the last gig was similar, but not well-enough dialled in with the amp to satisfy my tonal hunger, which has led me to go back to an approach I was using last year.
Early last year I was doing quite well with a setup based largely on careful gain staging, but for some reason I abandoned that idea for a while. Well that approach is back because thinking back, it worked really well!
That approach was exploiting gain, using pedals to, not only increase gain, but to reduce it too. Now I have moved onto a slightly bigger board, the sacrifices I made to that setup due to the desire to add more in the way of other effects like modulation etc. I’m able to combine the two and get back to the wonderful versatility I had before, but now even more so.
Starting with a tone that is just slightly overdriven (all pedals off – gain from the amp), I have a pedal assigned for cleaning up the tone, so that I can have a more pristine clean option, which works great for the soul/funk music I play. Another pedal is setup for a little more gain and more midrange (labelled Crunch). The tones of both the cleanup pedal (Donner Boost Killer) and the crunch pedal are dialled in to closely match the tone from the amp (Quilter Toneblock 200) at certain settings on the contour dial, which I like. This enables me to effectively switch between 3 voicings on the amp as a base tone from which to shape the tone for a particular song style. It works really well.
The cleanup setting I call “Blackface” and is set to scoop out mids, like the contour knob at 9 o’clock, the attenuation in the midrange is enough to reduce the gain going into the amp and eliminate overdrive for a very clean, snappy tone. The Donner Boost Killer (possibly my favourite pedal ever) does this so well that I am not tempted in the least to try out any “Voodoo magic” expensive, EQ or “amp-in-a-box” pedal.
The Movall Minotaur is my “Crunch” pedal. This approximates the tone of the Toneblock with the contour at 3 o’clock, which increases the gain compared to earlier settings due to the increase in midrange as you turn the dial clockwise. So with the gain set the same all the time and the contour at noon (flat EQ), I have 3 amp styles to choose from. Effectively a 60’s Fender, a Marshall and something inbetween. I have found with this setup that I can get away with having 2 boost pedals in front and have all the sounds I’m likely to need. Both boost pedals are cheap copies of an EP Booster, sound different from each other and when stacked together, provide a wonderful, almost-fuzz tone, something like a vintage Orange amp cranked or a cranked tweed Fender (depending on which voicing I have selected).
The Minotaur can also be used as an overdrive into the “clean” voicing and in turn I can crank the gain on the Boost Killer to get into the tonal territory of a dimed Deluxe Reverb should I desire.
Recently, playing a Squier Tele Custom II with P90s on the neck pickup, just cranking the “Blackface” pedal a little nailed the tone from “Brown Sugar”. Of course I was playing in open G!
I shall make some demos of the interaction of these pedals. Something I’ve discovered over the years is that a great setup is more about the interaction of the pedals you have rather than simply having a collection of really good pedals. Just like the best sounding bands aren’t always comprised of the best musicians – it’s the combined result that matters.
The icing on the cake with this board is the power supply. The Caline cp-06 is a very good (and affordable) rechargeable unit that is very quiet (significantly quieter than the Pedaltrain Volto in my experience). It’s bumped the Volto onto my smaller board, not only because of the superior noise performance , but the larger charge capacity too (8000mAh). The Caline is backed up by an Anker Powercore battery that holds 13400mAh of charge. Even though the CP-06 is likely to easily handle a gig with charge to spare, the backup means I don’t even have to worry about it. It’ll still last the whole night if I forget to switch off between sets.
More improvements in the area of less size/weight, but greater performance are due this year – all without losing my favourite classic-style guitar/amp tones. I shall in due course try and get some videos made.