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Author Topic: multi effects pedals on tube amp  (Read 2508 times)

KiLL-A-HertZ

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multi effects pedals on tube amp
« on: September 01, 2015, 07:28:22 PM »
Hey yall.   New to the forum.  Beelzebob turned me onto it.   I recently bought his special 6 that he'd "never sell"    ;)  Its my first tube amp.  And it sounds great.  Thanks again Bob.   

Anyhow short backround.  Relatively new player. (About 6 months)
Was a sound tech for a few years, so i have experience with various effects.  Ive been an industrial/Commercial Electrician for the last 12 years.   However i have very little experience with amplifiers. 

I'm looking to get a multi effects pedal to play with, but i want to make sure that
a ) it works well with tube amps
B) is harp friendly
c) isn't going to be a useless toy when i figure out which way is up

Ive been looking at the digitech rp90.  Used on amazon for about $40.  Any thoughts?

Also , as everyone already knows, the special 6 only has volume and tune knobs.  Reading about tube amps i gather there are many different types of distortion.  Can you use gain on a pedal for pre amp distortion?   Also what are my options for a master volume so i can get purely power tube distortion?  Sorry for all the questions i have loads more  :-[  But i think I've asked enough.  Feel free to school me on any other useful info.

Thanks All
 8)

ShufflinPaul

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Re: multi effects pedals on tube amp
« Reply #1 on: September 01, 2015, 09:21:46 PM »
Hi,
     I can only speak for harp pedals for my tube amp. I play guitar and have a Hughes & Kettner 25th Anniversary Tube. When I started playing on this site I used a Vox ToneLab ST and set up some channels specifically to play my harp through. It did work some what OK, but it was not the sound I was looking for. I did some research and spent some money and now I am using 4 pedals with the same H&K amp that I just love. I got the pedals from the Lone Wolf Blues Company in Louisiana. Randy Landry who owns Lone Wolf has some awesome pedal for harp players. If you can't afford an expensive harp amp this is the ticket. I use the Love Wolf Harp Attack, Harp Delay, Harp Tone +, and the Harp Shield. The Harp Shield is an awesome pedal that eliminates and fights feedback. It is a must if you are playing live on stage. I now have that big fat harp sound that I was looking for. For recording I mic my amp and run it through a USB Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 interface right into my PC recording software. The website has a lot of examples of the effects that each pedal has. There are a lot of big time harp players using these pedals. Lone Wolf has also came out his year with a real affordable harp amp. The Harp Train 10 (10 watts) sells for about $350.00. There will soon be a Harp Train 40 (40 watt) coming soon. That is what I am waiting for. The Harp Train will also be affordable. Again you can listen to examples of all of the Lone Wolf Pedals and amp.  Here is the site http://www.lonewolfblues.com/index.html 

I hope this will be helpful for you.

Paul Gilara (Shufflin Paul)

The Blues ain't nothing but a good man feeling bad.


Matt

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Re: multi effects pedals on tube amp
« Reply #2 on: September 01, 2015, 09:42:13 PM »
There is no short answer. I'll do my best. I guess you proabably know a lot of this already but I'll write my response with others in mind, too, if you know what I mean.
*Tubes and valves are the same thing and the terms are interchangable so excuse me if I flip between one and the other.

Your Amp:
Your amp is a Class A valve amp (single-ended). These are typically low wattage amps (5W is common) and the reason is due to the heat they produce. They produce a lot of heat because the valves are fully powered constantly (this is a really basic way of saying it, I'm trying not to get too technical). Larger amps like the Bassman for example are Class AB (also known as push/pull) and their power needs are met more dynamically.
 
The reason why Class A amps are favoured by harp players is because this design means that tube distortion is pretty much present all the time, even at low volumes. Tube distortion (valve distortion, same thing) is desired by harmonica players and guitarists over digital distortion or speaker distortion. It's a more 'organic' tone and much more pleasing to the ear.

So to summarise briefly: your Class A amp is already very good at producing tube distortion. It's a very suitable amp for getting that familiar Chicago harp sound.

Tube Distortion:
There are two main parts to your amp that both use tubes. The first stage is the preamp stage and in this stage the signal from your mic is amplified through the preamp valve (some amps have more than one preamp valve and the signal is amplified in a cascading fashion, increasing as it goes throug each valve).
The second stage is the power amp stage, the valves are usually bigger and this is the final amplification stage before the signal goes to the speaker(s).
Distortion can occur in either or both of these stages.
Overdriving the preamp stage can cause feedback problems and we all live with this to varying degrees when we play harp amplified. Preamp distortion is nice, but power amp distortion is usually considered nicer. So as a general rule a harp player might try not to overdrive the preamp stage but crank up the power amp stage instead. If you only have one volume knob you have little or no control over this, but in a Class A amp it's not a big issue.
In an amp with both master and volume controls you can control either stage and tweak your amp to get the kind of distortion you like the best.

Using a pedal between mic and amp can give you the ability to send a weaker (or stronger!) signal to the preamp. Harp players will sometimes use a pedal to attenuate (weaken) their input to help control preamp feedback. So basically crank the amp up but provide a weaker signal initially - this can allow the amp to be turned up higher at the volume knob which in turn provides more juice to the power amp stage and therefore more valve distortion.

The sweet spot:
Since you have a Class A amp I'll stick to that scenario for now.
So your amp already does a great job of creating warm distortion via the valves. But it isn't an overly loud amp in its own right, though 6W is a lot of power really and these little beasts can still wake your neighbours. You will find that if you turn it up incrementally and consider the results, that you will find a sweet spot where the amp gives you the most favourable tone. Unfortunately you will probably discover that the sweet spot is not at the top of the volume range of the amp and to be heard over a band you need to turn up your amp. But turning your amp up takes you past that sweet spot. So if playing on stage it is best to find your sweet spot regardless of the lack of volume and the mic up the amp through the PA system.

To my ear, a fully-cranked Class A amp sounds just horrible. The distortion is so much that it ruins the natural tone of the player, and the natural tone of the amp and speaker as well. Better to set the amp how you like it then mic it up through the PA (or if your amp has a line out you could go directly to an external speaker cabinet or PA using that method). The disadvantage of using the line out instead of micing the amp is that the line out option gives you only your lovely amp sound but not your amp's speaker sound. This may be negligible depending on the room, the PA, and your amp speaker itself.

Effects:
By now you might realise that in my opinion you don't need a distortion pedal, in fact you would be just feeding an already distorted signal through your preamp and power amp stages for further gain and distortion. It will usually sound very mushy. At first it is tempting to think this sounds pretty cool, but you'd probably be wrong about that in hindsight  :P

A player might find a use for a distrotion pedal if the had a really big amp (50W+) but they weren't able to turn it up loud enough to really juice up those power amp valves, but even there it is a poor replacement for warm tube distortion. There are other ways of achieving a good result on large Class AB amps but I won't go into that here.
So for what my opinion is worth - don't go near a Class A amp with digital distortion (and even on a large AB style amp digital distortion is the ugly cousin who you wouldn't invite to dinner unless it was Christams).
If you do decide to go for digital distortion try an overdrive module instead of a strictly distortion module, and use just a little.

Other digital effects can be very useful for harp. Especially useful are the sound-shaping effects like delay, reverb or echo, and also chorus, flanger, and sometimes compression. For this purpose a multi-effects pedal can do the job nicely. Not all multi-effects units are equal, but generally speaking things like delay and chorus will be just fine on these units. The ability to add a noise gate is also a common feature of these effects units, and this may help with feedback (the Lone Wolf anti-feedback pedal is essentially just a noise gate). Noise gates have their issues too, but it's still an option if you can't tame the feedback monster any other way.

As for becoming a 'useless toy' that is always the risk when buying effects (I have a closet full of 'useless toys'). Typically an effects unit that offers you perhaps nine layers of effects per patch, and the abilty to create and store 50 or more custom patches will end up being used for only two or three simple effects, and maybe you'll make half a dozen useful patches, if that. This is a reality that can be hard to swallow. You have to take it for what it is though, and, generally speaking, although you might not see the value in not using the device to its full potential, they are very bloody handy at the end of the day. Very portable, easy to use once you get the knack, (and if you don't go crazy with the amount of effect you dial in to your natural harp and amp tone) the results can be very satisfying.

I should add that I don't use a multi effects unit for harp because I prefer real spring reverb which my amp provides, and I hate digital distortion.
I use a Kinder Anti Feedback Device into a Lone Wolf Harp Tone+ (for impedance matching, and to fatten the bottom end), then in the effects loop of my amp (ie: after the preamp stage and before the power amp stage) I use a Boss Digital Delay (rarely used as I prefer real spring reverb) and a Boss Harmonist which allows me to get harmonising notes, an effect I like to use very occasionally for certain songs. I run a Fender 60W Blues Deville with four ten inch classic blue Jensen speakers. I also mic the amp through the PA despite the monstrous capabilities of the Deville, so that my harp signal can be piped through the foldback monitors and a little in the front of house mix.
*I have a Lone Wolf Harp Attack which I don't use any more. It is a really nice pedal and provides a quite warm and mellow distrortion via a sub-minature micro valve. I don't consider this pedal to be in the same group as digital distortion pedals for two reasons: first of all it produces valve distrotion, and secondly it is nothing like the harsh sounds made by distortion pedals. The Harp Attack isn't really an 'effect' as such. I stopped using it because the valve is microphonic and makes too much noise to tolerate. Randy has offered to replace the tube in it, but the cost of shipping the pedal back and forth via international freight is almost prohibitive. I did try this pedal on a few ClassA amps and found that it added little to the end result. On large amps or straight into a PA it was very good gear indeed.
« Last Edit: September 01, 2015, 10:07:54 PM by Matt »

ShufflinPaul

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Re: multi effects pedals on tube amp
« Reply #3 on: September 01, 2015, 10:13:01 PM »
Matt,
              Thank you so very much for posting all of the valuable info. Wow you are a wealth of information. I have never had anyone explain how distortion, preamps and tube work. I have been always flying by the seat of my pants. This was a very helpful post for me. THANKS!!!

Paul

Matt

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Re: multi effects pedals on tube amp
« Reply #4 on: September 01, 2015, 10:21:20 PM »
Matt,
              Thank you so very much for posting all of the valuable info. Wow you are a wealth of information. I have never had anyone explain how distortion, preamps and tube work. I have been always flying by the seat of my pants. This was a very helpful post for me. THANKS!!!

Paul
There are some great videos on YouTube (guitarist channels) which explain it in detail. But basically, knowing whether or not your are driving the preamp or power amp (or the speaker cone) is what distortion is all about. Knowing where in this chain your effects are placed is also important. There are no rules, however. If it sounds good, it is good.

Matt

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Re: multi effects pedals on tube amp
« Reply #5 on: September 01, 2015, 10:33:19 PM »
I should add that I can't live without my Harp Tone+. It has little to do with distortion (though is does have a mosfet so it can actually boost your input signal and overdrive the preamp) but it sounds great in front of every amp I've plugged into, even Class A amps. I use it to attenuate my harp signal rather than boost, and I have a 12AY7 valve in position 2 of my preamp, which tames the initial gain a little and helps avoid feedback. My phase inverter valve has also been swapped out for a 12AY7. This has nothing to do with volume because the phase inverter isn't a gain stage, despite using a valve. Using a lower gain valve in the phase inverter means I'm overdriving that valve and feeding a little more tube breakup into the power amp. This is off-topic from KiLL-A-HertZ's original post, but is part of the feedback/volume/breakup battle I had to fight to get a very big amp to break up at a range of venues.

The Class A amp gives us the opposite end of this issue. Breakup (tube distortion) is at a premium, but volume is not. Better to make the amp sound sweet and mic it up than to try and squeeze blood out of a stone. Class A amps are EPIC when in the sweet spot and played through a vintage mic. When pushed too hard the distortion compresses and muddies the hell out of your beautiful harp tone.

KiLL-A-HertZ

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Re: multi effects pedals on tube amp
« Reply #6 on: September 01, 2015, 10:37:45 PM »
Wow! Thanks alot Matt.  Very informative.
Most of this i had already read up on.   I atleast try to figure stuff out before i ask for help.   But i agree with the distortion.   That's one thing this amp doesn't need any more of.  A gate would be nice which the rp90 has.  But the feedback isn't a huge issue on this amp.  Mostly just interested in delay reverb echo etc.  But i wanted something that had all of them and fully adjustable like a stomp pedal.  Then i can make patches n figure out what effects i like together and so on.  Any input on the rp 90?


As far as the distortion.   That's what i was asking about adding a master volume knob so i can get a primarily power tube distortion out of it.  Can i pretty much use my mic volume as a gain?

I'm also considering getting a small flea market key board monitor for an acoustic sound.   I just can't get a clean sound or of this amp and i just love that sonny boy II clean sound.

Before getting this amp i had tried a fender mustang.   The effects where ok.  Never did get to use the fuse software.  But it just had that false sound i couldn't get over. 

Anyhow. What's my options for master volume control?  Or is it more trouble than its worth?

Thanks again Matt.  Much appreciated.

KiLL-A-HertZ

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Re: multi effects pedals on tube amp
« Reply #7 on: September 01, 2015, 10:50:11 PM »
Paul for a further explanation on how tube amps work and the different power stages.

This is the first video in a series of 8.  Helped me out alot.    :D

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Yc-78AKIo5A

Matt

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Re: multi effects pedals on tube amp
« Reply #8 on: September 01, 2015, 11:57:43 PM »
Wow! Thanks alot Matt.  Very informative.
Most of this i had already read up on.   I atleast try to figure stuff out before i ask for help.   But i agree with the distortion.   That's one thing this amp doesn't need any more of.  A gate would be nice which the rp90 has.  But the feedback isn't a huge issue on this amp.  Mostly just interested in delay reverb echo etc.  But i wanted something that had all of them and fully adjustable like a stomp pedal.  Then i can make patches n figure out what effects i like together and so on.  Any input on the rp 90?


As far as the distortion.   That's what i was asking about adding a master volume knob so i can get a primarily power tube distortion out of it.  Can i pretty much use my mic volume as a gain?

I'm also considering getting a small flea market key board monitor for an acoustic sound.   I just can't get a clean sound or of this amp and i just love that sonny boy II clean sound.

Before getting this amp i had tried a fender mustang.   The effects where ok.  Never did get to use the fuse software.  But it just had that false sound i couldn't get over. 

Anyhow. What's my options for master volume control?  Or is it more trouble than its worth?

Thanks again Matt.  Much appreciated.
I think the effects unit will do all the things you are wanting it to do, and it's a good brand, though I haven't used it. They are pretty good these days, at least for sound shaping effects, and as you say, you can make your own patches. You can EQ them and shape them subtley and get a good result. I think using these effects lightly is the way to go. I play guitar as well, so my multi effects unit has further value than harp. As I only really use a touch of reverb or delay, I can't justify using this unit for my harp. Most of what I'm going for is coming from me, the mic, and the amp. My pedals are really only controlling feedback, fattening up the bottom end, and pushing the amp in a certain way. I use vintage mics too, so my harp pedals match the impedance, and I found this to be important as I purchased and discarded all the wrong mics looking for good results.

I've played through a few Class A amps with both volume and master, or gain and master or whatever they decide to call them on any given amp. Yes, you can dial down the preamp and crank up the power amp using this type of confiuration. Yes, it absoultely does help to create the distortion which is closer to the ideal for harp. But I found it still to be case of the Class A animal not changing its spots. You will still have a sweet spot and the amp will still break up too much when fully-cranked. The distortion may be more pleasing but you won't really escape it. I won't say there is no path in that direction (somebody will have worked it out to their own satisfaction) but in my experience I always end up pluggin directly into a Class A, finding the sweet spot, and staying there, mic'ing the amp. There will be a spot on your amp which just sounds like pure hot-buttered barbed wire wrapped in marshmallow with chocolate chips, but as you say; it isn't a clean sound. I can't say whether or not modding your amp is worthwhile. I think the amp is very good as it is,  though it won't cover every job, and to be honest no one amp is perfect for all occasions.
I personally prefer a cleaner tone than most players seem to. I'm still going for warm distortion, but I don't want it to saturate my tone. I like the sparkle of Fender valve amps, prefer 10 inch speakers over 12 inch speakers and prefer a vintage bullet mic.

You have a great amp there, but no single amp will cover every situation. Your amp shines where mine is lacking, and vice versa.
If you do decide to buy another amp, don't get rid of the Class A if you can afford to keep it. Nothing else comes close for 'that' sound. With two amps you could split your signal and have the best of both worlds. Otherwise a cleaner valve amp would be something like Blues Junior (15W) or the H&K amp Paul is using (20W). You will have to overdrive these guys to get them where you want them, but you will have control over that. You are pretty safe with a valve amp somewhere in the 15-30W range for harp. This will suit most situations except for perhaps bigger venues or outdoors gigs, though you can always mic them up if you are using a PA.
« Last Edit: September 01, 2015, 11:59:33 PM by Matt »

htrain

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Re: multi effects pedals on tube amp
« Reply #9 on: September 02, 2015, 01:22:12 PM »
Great discussion with loads of information. Thanks for all of that!!

ShufflinPaul

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Re: multi effects pedals on tube amp
« Reply #10 on: September 03, 2015, 12:29:44 AM »
Matt and Kill-A-HertZ,
            I really want to thank you both again for the info. I did watch the 8 YouTube videos on "Tube Amps"  After watching that and with all of the awesome info from Matt I now have a better understanding of how to use a tube amp. I mean to tell you both that I can't believe I had this amp for 4 years and never really understood its potential. I did not really understand the pre-amp tubes and the power tubes. I have never used my amp correctly. I started messing around tonight with the Master up to around 7 and the gain to about 4 and let me tell you this that this amp has a sound I did not know it had. I have never used the power tubes in the past only the preamp. I would get frustrated because of all of the feed back. Anyway when the wife goes away tomorrow I will crank it and see what I got. Thanks again guys for all of your help!!

Paul

Matt

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Re: multi effects pedals on tube amp
« Reply #11 on: September 03, 2015, 06:05:30 AM »
Matt and Kill-A-HertZ,
            I really want to thank you both again for the info. I did watch the 8 YouTube videos on "Tube Amps"  After watching that and with all of the awesome info from Matt I now have a better understanding of how to use a tube amp. I mean to tell you both that I can't believe I had this amp for 4 years and never really understood its potential. I did not really understand the pre-amp tubes and the power tubes. I have never used my amp correctly. I started messing around tonight with the Master up to around 7 and the gain to about 4 and let me tell you this that this amp has a sound I did not know it had. I have never used the power tubes in the past only the preamp. I would get frustrated because of all of the feed back. Anyway when the wife goes away tomorrow I will crank it and see what I got. Thanks again guys for all of your help!!

Paul
It's great when you discover a whole new amp in the one you thought you knew  :-X
I'd be interested to hear how you go with your new settings once you get everything dialed-in.