18 June 2009

Digital guitar

I get so annoyed by the demos I see of amps or pedals that show the versatility you can get by twiddling several knobs. I don’t want to have to twiddle a bunch of knobs between songs to get the tone appropriate to each. Often, I want two (or more) different tones within each song when I can’t stop to twiddle knobs. Versatility doesn’t mean a lot if you have to carefully adjust several parameters to access it.

Sure, stomp boxes have the hammer of a bypass switch. Again, that doesn’t really let you access it’s versatility. It means you get one of it’s settings or none. And multiple stomp boxes means multiple stomps to make some changes.

High-end amps have multiple channels and various foot-switchable features. If you want an affordable amp that isn’t overpowered, though, they’re usually hobbled by a lack of foot-switches, a tiny speaker, and no effects loop.

So, I’m coming to terms with the fact that—when it comes to electric guitar—I’m a digital guy. More and more I’m convinced that back (1992?) when I got my Digitech DSP-21, I made exactly the right decision for me. A digital effects unit plugged into a PA or clean amp (or both).

I spent an afternoon at Danny Ray’s trying a bunch of tube amps, and I honestly enjoy my Digitech RP350 into my Crate GTD15R more than any of them. I think I may actually like the sound of a digital model of an amp than the amp itself.

P.S. I think another piece of the puzzle is that I’m not interested in developing a signature sound. I want a broad palette.


Don the Bassman said...

I've found myself perfering the simple setup that I have, though I would still love to have a big/better combo amp that will drive speakers without losing the speaker on the combo itself. I have tried playing the big bass digital effects boards while visiting Guitar Center and they just seem kind of cumbersome for what I want to do. Of course, I just have just the 2 pedals (Chorus and Wah-Wah) for the effects loop and the 2 built in effects (Octive and Distortion)on the amp so it's easy for me to switch back and forth and get some funky sounds out of it depending on what is going.I might still pick up a volume pedal to round everything out. Though, I still need to put together a pedal board that to put my pedals and the amp stomp box.

And I would like to come up with a signature style for my bass playing rather than just a signature sound, or maybe that is a sound..

Robert Fisher said...

You need one of those snakes with three cords so you can put your wah before the amp and your chorus in the effects loop.

That speaker in your amp seems adequate to me. Though I have been looking at some keyboard amps that can be arranged as a 4-channel stereo PA with subwoofer. ^_^

Don the Bassman said...

Oh, I like my amp, don't get me wrong on that. I would just like to be able to plug it into the computer and not have the amp go silent and all the sound just go through the computer, basicly I would like to use it as a monitor when I'm recording. Of course now that I have the wireless headset I really don't need that as much. And I agree about the cords, I have got to get set up right. Of course I could cheat a bit, cable into my bass, run the cord down to the wah and then out to the wireless link, then run the effects loop. But that would look messy.

Robert Fisher said...

I would’ve thought the amp’s speaker output → the audio interface would have power/impedance mismatch problems. I’d think it’d be better to go from a headphone out into the computer if your amp doesn’t have a direct/line out. Line outs usually don’t mute the internal speaker, I think, but too many combos don’t have one.

Hmm...for recording, maybe you should do effects send → your audio interface and then an out on the audio interface → effects return. Then you can tell GarageBand send the monitor signal back out to your amp. (and you could apply effects within GarageBand and hear them come out your amp) Does you audio interface have outputs?

Don the Bassman said...

It has a direct line out (external speaker line out actually) but it cuts off the main speaker when anything is plugged into it. The only effect that I would have to have before running into the FastTrack I have is just the Wah pedal, everything else I can do in Garageband itself. The FastTrack only has inputs really, well, except for the USB link to the computer.

Robert Fisher said...

Be careful. An amp’s speaker out is not a line-level signal. Your supposed to use different cables for it than regular guitar cables. The impedance of the speaker out will be between about 4 and 16 Ω, but the Fast Track input is more like 500K Ω. Unless it has a switch that changes the speaker out to a line out, I wouldn’t plug it into the Fast Track.

Speaker cables, guitar cables and impedances

The effects send is essentially a line-out from the pre-amp. (And the effects return is essentially an input to the power-amp.) Which is why I’d try effects send into the Fast Track. But unless you could route the signal back into the effects return, that’d still effectively kill the speaker.

Robert Fisher said...

Is this your Fast Track?

Don the Bassman said...

Yup, that is my Fast Track, I guess I do have a headphone jack on it! There was something special on the jack coming out the back for the external speaker but I can't remember at the moment. It has been working really well for the time I have been using it.. actually, I may be using the amp's headphone out... I have 3 outputs on the back.

Robert Fisher said...

Well, this conversation has got me trying—once again—to understand impedance and mic/line/speaker levels, etc.

Right now, I’m thinking the optimum set-up for recording with your bass amp is something like:

Bass → Wah → amp → effects send → chorus → Fast Track. Then the left line out (white RCA jack on the back of the Fast Track) → RCA/TRS adapter → amp’s effect return.

That way the speaker in your amp will work, and it’ll include any effects you add in Garage Band. Of course, you can skip the line out → amp and just use headphones plugged into the Mac or the Fast Track.

(Using your chorus pedal instead of Garage Band’s chorus whenever possible will save load on the CPU.)