Archive for August, 2011

A quest for overdrive

I’ve been on an effects kick lately. I hadn’t really been interested in pedals and stuff since probably college, but getting together with the guys in Infinitas had me wanting to experiment. That, and I just tend to like to buy gear and try it out when I can ;) I started back into the fray with some of the usuals; Boss bass chorus, a Big Muff Pi, a Boss digital delay. I still had my original Boss bass EQ and OC-2, and a half broken EHX Doctor Q, so they go busted out as well. I quickly determined I was after more, so after doing lots of reading, I ended up selling just about all of them (kept the Boss EQ out of sentimental value) and picked up a used Line 6 M13. I quickly determined two things;

  • The M13 could do just about everything I wanted (and more)
  • I couldn’t come up with a decent envelope filter if my life depended on it

The latter had me quickly deciding between the 3leaf filter and the Source Audio BEF, of which the Source Audio won and I haven’t looked back since.

Like many players, I got the overdrive bug. I have two lovable sounds in my head from years ago…playing live through a borrowed SVT, and using a guitar players Matchless head (also live) back in college when my amp died. Of course I’ve heard all sorts of tasty overdriven tones since, but those two really stick out.

Although I’ve found the M13 is good with creating distortion tones, the overdrives just weren’t cutting it for me. I got a few patches working decently through headphones, but after trying them out at practice, it just wasn’t happening. I also tried driving the front of my GB SM 12.0 tube channel with a booster patch, but again, the organic feel and sound that I had in my head just wasn’t there.

Only one thing left to do…start buying and trying pedals :)

Aguilar Agro
Pro’s: One of the most organic sounding pedals I’ve ever heard.  I realize that’s a lame, subjective term, but I don’t know how else to describe it.  I got the same vibe with their octave pedal that I tried at a store.  There’s just something very natural about the tone it produces.  There’s definitely some flexibility in the controls, which is great.  It does this very cool thing to harmonic content that I absolutely love.  So inspiring in fact that I ended up writing an entire song with the pedal on most on the time.  The battery compartment design on the Aguilar pedals is cool too (not that I typically use batteries).  I’ve also really enjoyed pairing this pedal with my Source Audio BEF…I’ve been able to come up with some really cool, thick, heavy, aggressive sounds.

Con’s: The case design sucks.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s a nice looking, robust pedal, but the design doesn’t allow for typical pedal board stuff. Hard to Velcro the bottom because of the case lip; I had to add a riser.  Angled connectors aren’t a fit for the same reasons.  Another potential con is that it definitely loses low end content.  I actually don’t mind it all that much because of the tone it brings to the table, but it would be great if there was a built in blend so you could get more of the original signal on top of what it’s doing.  Regardless, I’m keeping it for the foreseeable future.

Wren and Cuff Phat Phuk B
Pro’s: Simplicity.  One knob, one purpose.  Sounds amazing driving the front of my iPad’s Amplitube SVT model, which is kind of comical I think.  Sounds great in front of the tube channel on my Genz Benz ShuttleMAX 12.0.  Small form factor.  Doesn’t seem to lose any low end.

Con’s: Since there’s only one knob, matching volume and tone with the pedal On and Off is a PITA.  With the tone that I like,  my amp’s channel volume is too high.  With the volume set where it normally is, I need to set the Phat Phuk much lower than I’d like to match.  I realize this is by design and essentially how it works, but it’s a pain.  I need to either:

  • use the tube channel on my GB SM exclusively for the Phat Phuk and set the volumes accordingly
  • accept that kicking on the Phat will result in a huge volume increase
  • use a blender or some other means to control the volume

In the end though I’ve been able to find a happy medium, and I really enjoy this pedal live.

Fuzzrocious Dark Driving
Pro’s: Like the Phat Phuk, really simple with one knob.  You can open it up and adjust a few pots for variety, but I found what I believe to be the “stock” setting to be best for me.  I’ve got the Phat Phuk set up kind of like a tone “goose”; just a bit o’ grit and actually adds a bit of clarity.  Then the Dark Driving kicks it up a notch, things get a little woolly and, well, dark.  Then the Agro is next to tear your face off.

Con’s: The pedal is noisy.  I tried a variety of things (different power sources, cables, etc.) but I could not get rid of a noticeable hum whilst recording.  I don’t know if it’s a shielding or grounding thing, or just the circuit design.  That said, it’s perfectly at home on my pedalboard where I’m really not concerned with a little hum (only while engaged) in a live setting.

*** UPDATE *** I’ve realized that with the sound clips I’ve captured below, there actually wasn’t much hum (if any at all). I recently re-did most of the cabling on my pedalboard, so I’m wondering if what I ran into before was maybe a cabling problem, or just the signal chain I had going last time I tried recording with the pedal.

Amptweaker Bass Tightdrive
This one requires a bit more than just Pro’s and Con’s.  I was the most excited about getting this pedal (vs. the other two) after hearing the demo’s online, but after trying it out at first I was kind of left with the feeling of “meh”.  The unit is built like a tank and certainly feels as though you could throw it at a brick wall and it would simply just laugh at you.  It’s got a really cool battery compartment design as well.  The knobs are rock solid and overall it just exudes quality.  The adjustable placement loop on the unit is a great idea too.

I played around with it a bit at home, but overall found the tone either too thin, or too woolly…there wasn’t much middle ground.  I tried it at a few live practices, and it was more of the same; too much low end loss when I was dialing in a razor sharp cutting tone that I liked, or way too woolly when I tried to get the bass back.  I just kept jumping back to one of the other three pedals above, or any number of patches on my M13.  I though later about trying to use an EQ pedal either after it or in it’s own loop, but ended up putting it down for a few weeks…I was kind of depressed that it wasn’t what I’d hoped for, despite getting a great deal on eBay.  I was convinced that the Doug Pinnick demo on the site was waaaay over processed or something.

That got me thinking.  What about using the Tightdrive for recording?  Long story short; this is where the magic finally happened, and why I’m not likely to get rid of the pedal.  I found that if I dialed in that razor sharp cutting tone (with bass loss) on one channel, and then used a separate channel for a more traditional fatter tone (specifically my Avalon 737 and IK Multimedia’s Ampeg SVX), I ended up with a great monster rock tone.  I had tried this approach with other pedals and amps before, but was never really happy with the results.  The Tightdrive has really nailed it for me now.  So, I’m not using it live, but it’s almost a good thing because I can just leave it set up at home in my recording chain and not need to screw around with pulling stuff off my pedalboard or hooking up a bunch of crap every time I want to lay something down.

So having said all that…here are some clips!  As usual, something I came up with on the spot, and not much of a focus on execution (all single takes, except for one where I really screwed the pooch).  The drum part is courtesy of Mr. Tomas Haake, straight out of the Toontrack EZX Metalheads collection (they are sections from the Meshuggah song Lethargica).  I tried to cover both low and high end, with a few chords and even some slap.  The bass was my Warwick Custom Shop Thumb BO 6.  Each pedal went through a SWR MM2 preamp, into my Event Layla, through Cakewalk Sonar 6.  I tried to get each of the bass tracks level the same, and put a limiter and slight compression on the bass channel bus.  Clip 10 is from the Presence of Mind concept piece I’m writing and recording, and is an example of the Tightdrive blended with SVX.

As a comparison, you can also check out the clips I did on the Genz Benz ShuttleMAX 12.0 tube swap I did a while back, there are some grungy tones floating around there as well. I’m actually planning on grabbing a few more clips at some point with the boost pedals driving the tube channel. Something else to note is that in my opinion, all these pedals sound 25-50% more aggressive in my live rig (all settings re iq ing the same), when everything is turned up to volume…just food for thought.

Enjoy!

I’m selling my beloved Euphonic Audio VL-108 and VL-110 cabs.  I’ve had the VL-108 for a while now, and it was well loved prior to me having it.  A year or two ago I got the VL-110 to match it, with the plan of using both for double bass work.  Unfortunately, I’m just not using them much anymore since getting any of my Schroeder cabs.  I originally didn’t like the sound of the Schroeder’s with my double bass, but that was in the confines of my home and not out in the real world.  I’ve come to find they sound great and cut through, just like I expect on electric.  Given the music I’m typically playing on double bass these days, I’ve found I need more power and volume than the VL’s are designed for.  The specs for the cabs are in one of the images above.

So, they should probably head to a better home than I’m giving them.  Great, GREAT cabs though.

One Bad Oyster will be playing a private show in Wilton CT, on Saturday 8/20/2011.  I’d say stop by…but it’s private ;-)

I’m selling my Aria Pro II Avante fretless unlined 6 string bass.  I haven’t had it very long, but I’ve decided to sink some money into my Laurus Quasar and get it to where I’d like it to be.  I believe I’m the second owner of the Aria, as I recall the gentleman I bought it from said he bought it originally back in 2000.  Some stats:

  • Alder body
  • Maple neck
  • Ebody board
  • Active electronics (rear battery compartment, always nice to have!)
  • @ 13.5 lbs
  • SN: S4111468

The only thing wrong with it is the E string tuner head has a broken bushing (the little plastic piece between the tuning leaf and the rest of the post, on the back side of the headstock).  Very minor, and doesn’t seem to affect tuning stability.

Great bass, but just not for me.