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 Post subject: Welcome to the Effects Forum! READ THIS FIRST!
PostPosted: March 11th, 2008, 10:30 am 
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Joined: March 9th, 2008, 6:01 pm
Posts: 66
Location: Santa Clara, CA
If you're an effects junkie like I am, you'll find this forum to be rather accommodating. If you're new to effects pedals on bass, you'll enjoy the forum just as much! Feel free to discuss:

  • Using effects in a band situation
  • Effects pedals you've used, and what you think of them
  • Questions about specific pedals
  • Recommendations for particular effects

...and anything else you can think of that's effects related!

Before you begin, I'd like to dispel a few common misconceptions about effects pedals:

DO GUITAR PEDALS WORK ON BASS?
Despite what an uninformed employee at Guitar Center or some other store might tell you, ALL guitar effects work on bass. That's not the real issue, though. Not all guitar effects work well on bass. The most common problem is a lack of bottom end; many guitar pedals are not designed to retain low frequencies, since they're often not that important to guitarists. Usually, this is common with overdrive, distortion, and fuzz pedals, but exceptions always exist.

You could use equalization (via your amp or an EQ pedal) to boost low end, but remember that it does NOT replace frequencies cut off by the pedal in question; it can only boost what's left after it's processed through the effect pedal. Some pedals will roll off the low end, but others will cut it off completely. An EQ can only do so much to fix this, and if it's cut off, it really can't do anything besides boost what frequencies are left.

Most modulation pedals (chorus, tremolo, delay, flanger, vibrato, etc.) as well as other effects types tend to work well on bass - that's why you will not see "bass" delay pedals, for example. Sometimes, bass versions exist, but they simply have features that could be more useful to a bassist than a guitarist (like a low pass filter to keep the bottom end clean and unaffected).

Which is better? You decide. Listen with your ears, not your eyes. ;)

ANALOG VERSUS DIGITAL
Analog is not necessarily superior to digital. Each approach to producing an effect has its advantages and disadvantages. In the end, it's the sound that matters - I wouldn't stress about whether it's analog or not.

Generally, analog pedals are regarded for their "warmth" and "natural" sounds. They're generally easier to build and repair, although they can be more expensive to make, too. Digital is often thought to be "accurate", sometimes "sterile", and capable of sounds and features analog pedals can't achieve (like really long delay times, phrase sampling, programmability, etc.). But always remember that the opposite can also be true for analog and digital! It simply depends on the pedal. I've used some really sterile and lifeless analog pedals, and some really warm and natural-sounding digital pedals.

Which is better? You decide. But don't neglect the other simply because it is what it is. Listen with your ears, not your eyes. ;)

TRUE BYPASS VERSUS BUFFERED BYPASS
True bypass is not necessarily superior to buffered bypass. A good buffered bypass can rival true bypass for a clean bypassed sound, and has other perks as well; it can maintain signal strength over a long chain of effects, and change impedance to provide better interactivity between your bass and some quirky effects (like fuzz pedals).

True bypass, however, is simple, tried and true, and although the "pops" and "clicks" associated with the switch are unavoidable, the bypassed sound is otherwise physically untouched. It also requires no power to function, unlike buffered bypass.

And then there is relay-based switching, which usually (but not always) is accompanied by bypass buffers. Some relay-based switching systems are true bypass, too, but whenever a relay is involved, you'll need power for the system to function. Some newer pedals like the Digitech Hardwire series actually are designed to automatically bypass when power is disconnected, allowing you to avoid the signal-stop problem often experienced with buffered bypass and older relay-based switching systems.

Other bypass systems exist as well; some simpler, "shoddier" approaches will not provide a 100% direct patch from input jack to output jack. Any time you see other words tacked onto "true bypass," it's time to be skeptical about what's really going on inside.

Which is better? That all depends on your circumstances and preferences. Listen with your ears, not your eyes. ;)

DO I NEED BETTER EFFECTS OR A BETTER AMP?

Let's be realistic, here - through a budget combo amp, not even the best effects are going to sound great. Whenever possible, strive to achieve the "perfect" clean sound first - and that usually means getting a better amp. Possibly a different bass, too, if you're not satisfied with the tone. My general point is: pedals don't solve tone problems. They might sometimes make a good tone better, but they won't make a bad tone good.

On a related note... the quality of an amp often "colors" what people think about the pedals they own. A pedal that rocks on one rig may sound awful on another. Keep this in mind not only for your own effects adventures, but also when reading the opinions of others on a particular pedal. They're using different gear - different strings, basses, picks, amps, cabinets, etc. - so your results may vary. Not to mention, their tastes may be different, too. Listen with your ears, not your eyes. ;)

WHAT'S THE "BEST" ORDER FOR MY EFFECTS CHAIN?

There are two camps of thought on this. Some believe that effects only sound best in a certain order, and others believe that there is no "best" order at all. I opt for the third camp. :mrgreen:

There are a few "popular" effect orders which many musicians refer to as rules of thumb for setting up their effects. Here is one such order:

Preamp
Compressor
Wah
Overdrive / Distortion / Fuzz
Chorus/Flanger
Delay
EQ
Noise Gate
Volume
Reverb

But if you've paid attention to any of the more "unusual" and experimental bassists out there (or atypical musicians in general), you'll notice that not many will follow this suggested order to the letter. For example, while in Metallica, Cliff Burton ran a wah pedal after his fuzz pedal for his screaming solos. While in Death from Above 1979, Jesse Keeler ran a stereo chorus pedal into two different amps (pushed to distortion) for his signature ambient distortion tone.

In short: what's popular doesn't necessarily mean it's the best. Decide for yourself what your ideal chain is through experimenting. It doesn't hurt to start with the above order as your guide, but don't be afraid to mix things up and try new combinations. Listen with your ears, not your eyes. ;)

Yeah, that sentence never gets old. :mrgreen:

If you can think of any other major issues that should be addressed in this thread, feel free to PM me about it, and I may add it to this thread.

With that being said, start posting! :mrgreen:

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