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Semi-Distortion Amp Head or Pedal for DI Recording?
Old 22nd September 2013
  #1
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Semi-Distortion Amp Head or Pedal for DI Recording?

I have a 5 watt Blackstar head which is great for full-on guitar distortion, however, it is not very good with the cleans or semi-distorted sounds. Can someone recommend a head or pedal that offers a 'warm', not over the top, distortion that can be manually adjusted? I would be using it for recording DI only. Also, I would be buying used...so my budget is around 300-400 US Dollars.

Many thanks.
Old 22nd September 2013
  #2
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The DI part is where things get tricky. The amp will need a speaker or decent load box to keep it from getting damaged, and a DI signal from anything except a very clean tone is going to have some harsh, unwanted high end to it unless you run it through a cabinet emulator.
Old 22nd September 2013 | Show parent
  #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Frodebro View Post
The DI part is where things get tricky. The amp will need a speaker or decent load box to keep it from getting damaged, and a DI signal from anything except a very clean tone is going to have some harsh, unwanted high end to it unless you run it through a cabinet emulator.
Thanks!

Are you referring to the 'older' amps that are not meant to be recorded directly but with a speaker/cabinet. My Blackstar head has a line out and speaker simulator allowing me to go directly into my audio interface. So, would I need an amp head with this option? Or, something like this:

http://www.radialeng.com/r2011/jdx500.php
Old 22nd September 2013 | Show parent
  #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by deckard1 View Post
Thanks!

Are you referring to the 'older' amps that are not meant to be recorded directly but with a speaker/cabinet. My Blackstar head has a line out and speaker simulator allowing me to go directly into my audio interface. So, would I need an amp head with this option?
It's not really an "older/newer" thing with amps, only a very few tube amps actually have this feature, and virtually all modeling amps have it. Tube amps need a speaker or load connected to their outputs at all times, or things will get smoked. Your Blackstar likely had a load box built in, the Marshall Class 5 that I had also came with this feature for headphone playing.

Tube amps in general record best with a miked cabinet, but not everybody is able to do that for a few different reasons (living in an apartment, excessive background noise, etc).

When I lived in an apartment, I had to do the DI thing myself. I found that the Radial JDX DI does a pretty impressive job (it has a speaker emulator), but it doesn't have a load box feature, as it was intended to be used as a PA feed for live applications. So I ran my amp through the JDX into a Hot Plate set to "Load", and this gave me the ability to record tube amps direct.

However, this setup will exceed the budget you set before you even look at an amp to use with it, so that's out. Dedicated load boxes with compensated recording outputs are also out of the budget you specified, so that's another no-go, and again there is still the issue of finding the amp on top of that.

Another option would be modeling, which can give you very good results if you dial it in well. I have gotten really good results with a Digitech GSP1101, Fender Mustang III V2, (hardware modelers), Logic Amp Designer, Amplitube, Guitar Rig, and Scuffham S-gear (software).

Some people will thumb their noses at modeling and insist that the only way to do it right is to mic a tube amp, but they ignore the fact that some people simply don't have that option, and the results that can be had with modelers are better than they will ever accept.
Old 22nd September 2013
  #5
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You can take your pick from all the best OD pedals. Too many to choose from. Wampler are one of my own favourites.

Maybe one of the Blackstar pedals will have the sound you're looking for. They've also got speaker emulated line outs (some of them, at least).

To take a line out from a tube head, you need a dummy load to plug in to the speaker out. A simple resistor can do the job but a reactive load does it much better since it behaves more like a real speaker coil. As mentioned, the raw signal from an amp is kind of nasty and needs to be processed by a guitar cab (second sample here). Some reactive loads have a cab sim built in, or you can just add it on the computer (google LeCab).

If you can handle a soldering iron, you can build a good quality reactive load of your own.
Old 22nd September 2013 | Show parent
  #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mcgruff View Post
You can take your pick from all the best OD pedals. Too many to choose from. Wampler are one of my own favourites.

Maybe one of the Blackstar pedals will have the sound you're looking for. They've also got speaker emulated line outs (some of them, at least).

To take a line out from a tube head, you need a dummy load to plug in to the speaker out. A simple resistor can do the job but a reactive load does it much better since it behaves more like a real speaker coil. As mentioned, the raw signal from an amp is kind of nasty and needs to be processed by a guitar cab (second sample here). Some reactive loads have a cab sim built in, or you can just add it on the computer (google LeCab).

If you can handle a soldering iron, you can build a good quality reactive load of your own.
My only concern with pedals would be the fact that he's not happy with the clean sound from his amp, so it might be a bit of a task to find a pedal that plays nicely with it. Lots of trial-and-error there, but definitely not out of the question! I have a Radial ToneBone Classic that doesn't work well with my Deluxe Reverb or Boogie Mark V, but it goes beautifully with my TA-15.
Old 22nd September 2013
  #7
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The clean sound on the Blackstar isn't half bad actually. The problem lies when you want a semi distorted guitar sound. It's pretty much impossible given that there is no gain knob for the clean channel.

Given what you guys have stated above and my limited budget...it looks like I am going to go the pedal route. Can someone suggest a pedal that offers a nice distortion...nothing over the top. I think one of you mentioned Wampler. Any specific one? Any others?

Thanks again.

Btw, I am staying away from the simulated stuff. As good as it's become, I am simply not happy with it.
Old 22nd September 2013
  #8
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Like Frodebro said, a pedal might work better with one amp (and guitar) than another so try out first with your amp if you can. Wampler make several tasty drives then there's Lovepedal, Catalinbread, Xotic, etc etc... I've got a Euphoria and have my eye on a Throback Overdrive Boost. The Zendrive might be good for lower gain crunch. Like the Wampler Euphoria, it's designed to be quite touch sensitive like a tube amp so you can play around on the edge of breakup using your pick attack or rolling back the volume to control the tone.
Old 22nd September 2013
  #9
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FFTT's Avatar
 

You can make a 5 watter play clean by either playing very gently or rolling off the guitar volume.

Set the amp volume to about 9-10:00 and try it.
Old 22nd September 2013 | Show parent
  #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FFTT View Post
You can make a 5 watter play clean by either playing very gently or rolling off the guitar volume.

Set the amp volume to about 9-10:00 and try it.
Ahh...yes. Great idea. That definitely works!

Just as a side note, I've been playing around with the Princeton Reverb amp sim within Amplitube and it sounds pretty damn good.
Old 22nd September 2013
  #11
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If you know how to solder, you could probably build a Tweed Champ/Princeton (similar design) within your budget.
Old 23rd September 2013 | Show parent
  #12
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FFTT's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by deckard1 View Post
Ahh...yes. Great idea. That definitely works!

Just as a side note, I've been playing around with the Princeton Reverb amp sim within Amplitube and it sounds pretty damn good.
If you can master controlling your sound with a super touch sensitive 5 watt class A by using your guitar as the controller, that will translate to every amp
you use to some degree once you get it down.
Old 23rd September 2013 | Show parent
  #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FFTT View Post
If you can master controlling your sound with a super touch sensitive 5 watt class A by using your guitar as the controller, that will translate to every amp
you use to some degree once you get it down.
I learned to use this technique when I was still gigging years ago, but I'm re-appreciating it now that I have a small Class A amp that is much more responsive to input dynamics than my big rig was. A Telecaster and a single EL84 can keep me blissfully oblivious to the world for hours.
Old 23rd September 2013
  #14
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I finally Got It messing around on my Epi Valve Junior and it sure comes to life with my other amps that I've purchased since then.
Old 26th September 2013
  #15
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What about a pedal from Wampler to put in front of the amp that has the sound of a Vox AC30 for dialing in a semi-distortion? Can someone recommend a pedal like this?
Old 26th September 2013
  #16
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FFTT's Avatar
 

If you have a Bad Cat dealer near you, you might want to try out the Bad Cat Unleash.
Old 26th September 2013 | Show parent
  #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FFTT View Post
If you have a Bad Cat dealer near you, you might want to try out the Bad Cat Unleash.
Never heard of them. Will check it out. Thanks.
Old 26th September 2013 | Show parent
  #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FFTT View Post
If you have a Bad Cat dealer near you, you might want to try out the Bad Cat Unleash.
Interesting. It's not a pedal but an attenuator? I am confused as to how one would dial in a semi-distortion.
Old 26th September 2013
  #19
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Ended up going with the Wampler pedal...

Wampler Pedals | Hand Made Boutique Guitar Effect Pedals | Heritage Series | Tweed '57

Very nice!
Old 26th September 2013
  #20
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mcgruff's Avatar
 

The crunchy overdrive sounds very like my tweed champ. Wampler make some nice pedals.
Old 27th September 2013 | Show parent
  #21
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FFTT's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by deckard1 View Post
Interesting. It's not a pedal but an attenuator? I am confused as to how one would dial in a semi-distortion.
I see you already made your decision.

I was thinking the Unleash because it can be used to both attenuate or boost your signal.
Old 27th September 2013
  #22
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I'm not all that surprised to hear that a 5 watt amp doesn't really do clean too well. Those low wattage amps tend to be designed with overdrive in mind.
You might want to try out the Blackstar HT20. Seems to do really well with clean or semi-distorted "crunch". Has a nice emulated speaker output that doesn't require a speaker load to use.
Old 28th September 2013
  #23
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SynapticGroove's Avatar
The Snapperhead

SynapticGroove - Being analog in a digital world

It can easily go from nearly clean boost to warm OD to full on MBV distortion mess. Very simple controls and 100% handmade. Robin Finck, Alice In Chains, Nick Perri, Richard Fortus and Walking Papers are jamming it.

Great OD/Dist box, if I don't say so myself.
Old 28th September 2013
  #24
Check out the Tech 21 Character series or the Joyo clones. Great amp sims in pedal form and do DI very well.
Old 28th September 2013 | Show parent
  #25
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Returned the Wampler '57 Tweed. Great pedal but not what I wanted. Even with the gain all the way down I was getting too much distortion.

Back to square one!
Old 28th September 2013
  #26
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FFTT's Avatar
 

For more headroom, you're probably looking at something in the 15-40 watt range, the bigger the transformer, the better.

Check out the Bad Cat Classic Deluxe R & Black Cat 15R
Reeves 18 or 30
Vox AC15HWX or AC30HWX
Gries 35

Something along those lines.

You're in LA, you might as well make an appointment to do the Bad Cat Factory Tour.
Old 29th September 2013
  #27
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Was in my local Guitar Center yesterday per everyones advice looking for a distortion pedal and instead used the money...plus a couple of hundred extra bucks...to pick up a brand new MIM Fender Stratocaster (see pic below). Awesome guitar and sits in the mix perfectly!

Still in need of a mild distortion pedal though...something under $100 preferably...to use with the new Strat. What about the Electro Harmonix Big Muff??? I think Gilmour uses one.

Thanks.
Attached Thumbnails
Semi-Distortion Amp Head or Pedal for DI Recording?-img_0185.jpg  
Old 29th September 2013
  #28
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I had a big muff years ago. I seem to remember it was pretty extreme.

Another pedal which has been used by Dave Gilmour is the Coloursound Overdriver - but see the Throbak Overdriver for an updated version with a couple of mods.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rmxSiGQFzkU
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_dZwClBenh4

Not sure what they cost in the US.
Old 29th September 2013
  #29
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Look for a Danelectro Daddy O' pedal, great OD pedal, very affordable, preferred by me
and several of my buds over the TS808RI.
Old 29th September 2013
  #30
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Thanks for all of your suggestions. I picked up an overdrive pedal for only $50 new at Guitar Center:

BOSS U.S. - SD-1: Super OverDrive

Actually sounds better than the Wampler I had, IMHO. Or, perhaps I should say, that it suits my needs better than the Wampler!

Anybody here familiar with or have any thoughts on this particular pedal???
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