Open / Closed

September 27, 2007

I think I just got my “Holy Grail” tone for guitar distortion. You know, every guitarist has the idea in his head of the tone he wants. I’m really close. About six months ago, I thought I had it, but it just wasn’t heavy enough. Now I have discovered a way to get it heavier, clearer, and better than ever. The key to both of these sounds is the best distortion pedal I’ve ever encountered — a Humphrey modded “Bad Monkey” pedal. You can buy these on eBay. I haven’t ever used the stock Bad Monkey, but I’ve heard they’re not very good. In any case, Humphrey’s has such a clear, natural, musical distortion sound, I’ve never heard a pedal like it before. But it’s not too heavy (see above). I tried a number of configurations to get a heavier sound. I bought two new pedals — a Humphrey modded Metal Zone (not my style — I didn’t like it) and a “Screamin’ Eagle” (a BYOC Tubscreamer modified to be like the Tri-Boost, with three switchable gain types). I start by running the Eagle right before my amp, so it was like this:

GEB-7 -> EBS Multicomp -> Bad Monkey -> Metal Zone -> Screamin’ Eagle -> Hush -> Class A tube Amp

Not bad, but although I liked the sound at first, I kept thinking … not good enough. Too solid-state sounding. I was getting sick of all of them, especially the Metal Zone. I was considering just getting rid of the whole deal and getting an ENGL or something. Luckily, cooler heads prevailed, and as I was playing around I realized … the Bad Monkey really reacts like a tube amp. Most distortion/overdrive pedals need a cleaner, lower signal to function properly, but I found that the Bad Monkey sounded even better when it received a hot signal. So I boosted the signal in front of it a bit more (from the GEB-7). This still wasn’t enough. I added the Eagle between the Comp and Monkey, convinced now that this could get a heavier sound with the character of the Monkey. Still, it wasn’t heavy enough. So, I increased the output of the Monkey, increased the volume on the amp, and, on a whim, moved the Hush to the loop. Previously I had the Hush in the loop and it sounded like junk, killing my tone and cutting off quiet sounds. But this time, it worked like a charm! Because I had such a hot signal coming out of the preamp, the Hush didn’t cut out the quiet sounds, but it did add a ton of clarity to the distortion, taking off the fuzz that always irritated me about overdriving my amp. So, now the setup runs:

Multicomp -> Eagle -> Monkey -> Preamp -> Hush -> Poweramp

If I could fault this setup in any way, it would be that the sound is lacking some bass. Culpability for this, however, more likely lies with my cab (open backed). Which, unfortunately, I can’t do much about, because the chain doesn’t really end at the poweramp. It’s actually more like this …

… Poweramp -> Hot Plate (line out) -> EQ pedal -> Poweramp of Ultimate Chorus

Yeah, I can’t really just switch cabs, because inside of mine I have a Hot Plate, EQ Pedal, Palmer Junction, Surge Protector and the guts of an Ultimate Chorus amp. But, then again, in a live situation, bass is not always so crucial for guitar, and I definitely can get enough volume between the two amps. Hm.

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