Suggestions For Electric Guitar Effects Gear ... And Other Equipment

Discussion in 'Tracking / Mixing / Editing' started by mdb, May 5, 2011.

  1. mdb

    mdb Active Member

    First, a suggestion to the site mods/ admin:

    Should there be a category on the forum for "Instruments and Sound Sources" where a person can ask questions about instruments, their associated gear and other sound sources (since the signal chain begins with these)? A lot of people on this forum also play instruments which they use to record with and may have questions specific to them that don't really have a place anywhere else within the current caterories. I didn't know where to ask my question so it is here in "Pro Audio Gear". If it should be moved, please do so.

    On to my question...

    There seems to be a million choices out there for guitar effects. What is best? I want good sound quality, not necessarily an all-in-one unit that does everything okay, but if there is an all-in-one unit that does everything very well then that would be good.

    Should an electric guitarist be looking for something digital (DSP pod-type) or for something analog in the way of individual pedals? What pedal brands are pro and which are not? Are there certain effects that are, in general, lame? At what price range does a person go from pro-consumer to professional with effects pedals? I've never looked at them before.

    Basically, I have a friend who is an acoustic guitar player getting into electric guitar and he doesn't know where to begin to look for effects pedals/ equipment. So, for the other equipment, does the guitar quality come into play or just the pickups in that guitar? What about the amp and cabinet - suggestions on brand, models, size, quality, etc.? I know that's a loaded question.

    In case it matters, the style of music is contemporary Christian pop, rock, & worship.
  2. song4gabriel

    song4gabriel Active Member


    in my opinion- the HOLY GRAIL

    Fractal Audio Systems Axe-Fx - Guitar Tone and Effects Processor - Amps, Cabs, Effects and More

    i've been saving up for this for months now.
  3. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    The actual forum you speak of, resides further down the page. Its called Recording Studio Instruments. Not many make it that far south on this page........

    At a certain point, pedals and other types of effects become a matter of taste. What you like is what you like....Build quality is hugely variable. The better built pedals always sound 'better'. A true bypass is always needed to keep the pedals themselves from sucking out the tone of your signal path whether they are on or off. I have to have pedals (when I use them) that have fast response and clear clean sound to their effect.

    Theres a LOT of crap out there. Research is the best thing there.

    The Fractal is probably the best emulation equipment. Its not the ONLY emulation equipment. The Eleven Rack from Avid is quite surprising and easy to use. I have heard great players on cheap crap-built pod stuff and they were still great players with amazing tone.

    All of this is about the box-o-colors. You get what gives you the best set of tools to do what you want with the talent you have. No emulation device or stomp box will make you something you arent already.
  4. mdb

    mdb Active Member

    song4gabriel, you and I... we're the same. I just won myself (by random draw, not legitimately) an UAD-2 Quad. Almost messed my pants.

    Thanks for offering your opinion DaveDog. I remember when the Eleven Rack came out. I think it's around $1000 or something.
  5. Jeemy

    Jeemy Well-Known Member

    It really starts with the amp. Amp choice will dictate what you're gonna need. For most rock/pop stuff (I have to confess I'm not sure what Christian worship music sounds like but I guess its clean guitar) the best solution you can have, heavy metal aside, is a small tube combo or head/cab with a reasonable built in reverb and an effects loop.

    A decent quality distortion pedal (the Keeley modded BD-2 is cheap and great as is his Tube Driver version) set quite low to push the front end of the amp, and a delay in the effects loop is all you are going to need to begin with, if you even need the delay. True bypass is very important in the guitar - amp chain, the Keeleys are all modded to be TB I believe - its less important in the effects loop.

    Most new and older Fender tube amps sound grand, and (apparently) the vintage tweed Peaveys and even the Crate VC2515 or something I think it is, are all good buys. Marshall I have to say feels more like a metal amp to me although you can't really go wrong with a 50-watt 800, 900 or 2000 head.

    If you are going head/cab then a decent hardwood cab with better-than-stock speakers is a great investment.

    The trouble with the all-in-one units you are talking about is that its unlikely you will need 90% of what they contain, and therefore you're wasting money on them. If you really need chorus, flangers, multiple delay types, and various guitar/cab simulators together with whizzy stuff like slicers and modulators then a Boss GT-PRO is a good if a bit old-skool these days, multieffects unit. Although I use one, I bypass all of its preamp simulator stuff and sit it in a true bypass effects loop and so it gets infrequent use.

    A POD paired with the right amp for live use is going to be acceptable, but not so much for studio use and it will lack resale value, so buy second-hand.

    Really I'd suggest let the amp do the talking and provide the reverb, and buy one or two decent pedals for essentials like gain/boost/crunch and delay/chorus/ymmv as to what is essential.
  6. Jeemy

    Jeemy Well-Known Member

    Oh and if you do get a box'o'tricks, presets are not your friend. You'll get far better sounds, and far more usable tone, by dialing in a little of what you need manually from a basic empty patch.
  7. mdb

    mdb Active Member

    I appreciate the advice Jeemy. So a person is best to start with a good amp/cab. Otherwise you're just getting garbage out and adding effects to the garbage? How important is the quality of the electric guitar in all of this? What exactly makes an electric guitar good anyway (pick-ups, internal circuitry, bridge, neck)? With the right gear, can you get good sound out of a budget electric guitar?
  8. Jeemy

    Jeemy Well-Known Member

    Yes definitely. To a certain extent I'd say a good amp is better than a good guitar. What makes a guitar good in no particular order, and less relevant for hi-gain, speed machines:

    - quality of the wood used in neck & body - quartersawn, how many pieces, quality in terms of grain regularity
    - quality of the fitting of such - better joint = better sustain and transfer - plus better overall tone
    - quality of the fitting of the frets, nut & trem/bridge block for similar reasons
    - weight & quality of metal of the bridge block & tuners
    - tuner quality, more for tuning accuracy
    - pickups & wiring

    A crap guitar can be improved by aftermarket pickups, a good guitar is rare to come without accompanying good pickups, hence the pretty big jump between average and good guitars price-wise, always as with anything worth spending the extra for something good.
  9. Guitarfreak

    Guitarfreak Well-Known Member

    Everything Jeemy said I agree with. You've got to start with a good guitar, a good amp, and only then start filling in the middle. If you buy an entire pedalboard full of effects to try to make up for a poor sounding guitar or amp you are bound to be disappointed. And broke!
  10. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    My opinions on these issues - and they are just that, opinions - pickups and capacitors are by far the most important factor in the sound of a solid body electric. Other factors affect the tone, but have much more effect on the feel of the guitar to the player. Of course, how the player feels affect how he plays so if a guitar feels solid and resonant a better sound might result. But it it doesn't have that much to do directly with the sound. The biggest factor of how the player reacts to the guitar is the setup. While good hardware and frets make it easier to do a setup, you can do a great setup on a crap guitar. It will last about a week, but you can do it. Level and polish the frets, cut the nut slots to the correct depth and carve and polish the nut, adjust the intonation and bridge height, set the relief. You need the right tools (especially for the nut slots) but a cheap guitar with good pickups and a good setup can play and sound like a much more expensive guitar.

    I'm finicky about fit and finish too, but it's really mostly aesthetic. Too many great players have played bolt neck guitars held together with bailing wire and chewing gum with the neck angle adjusted with business cards and guitar picks for me to think that a precise neck joint is a big deal for tone.
  11. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    BTW, I'm basically with Jeemy on his recipe for good electric guitar tone. Great amp - good guitar - a few good outboard effects.

    But I'm not convinced its the only recipe for a good recorded tone. Plenty of people have been getting good tone with amp sims, and in certain situations it may be the best tone you can get. We get a lot of guys coming here with cheap amps, bad rooms, and low budgets. The fact is that in the short term a sim is their best tool.
  12. Jeemy

    Jeemy Well-Known Member

    Bob I'm certainly not trying to discredit what you say or even "agree to disagree" as its definitely a very subjective topic with plenty of variables.

    My opinion on the whole "tone is in the fingers" thing is that this refers to players who have a lot of left-hand technique - this comes only with hours/years of practice and an innate ability as part of overall technique to find the 'sweet spot' within the fret boundary where the string will ring most truly. Most players who this can be applied to have such a good left hand technique and vibrato that they are basically 'wringing' or 'coaxing' the tone out of a guitar, for single-line lead playing which is most often where 'tone' is applied in discussion, this is essential.

    However I'd argue that this is made much easier by properly fitting frets, and agree with Bob when he says that on a guitar where the job has been done poorly in the first place, to set the guitar up properly will be a temporary measure only.

    Setting the neck angle with business cards or picks is an essential part of this setup! (I draw the line at saying a brass neck shim improves tone!) Most (cheap and average) guitars are supplied with bad neck relief in the first place. In fact many high-priced factory guitars still suffer from this and a host of small problems, although when the materials and CNC work are better, they are easier to fix permanently.

    Having played guitar for over 25 years and owned over 50 guitars from cheap and nasty to so high-end I would only touch them with photographers' gloves on, I do have a lot of experience in this - especially as I used to refit, setup and resell for a period. However this period was over 10 years ago and even then my opinions were becoming outdated.

    Korean and other Far Eastern guitars, especially acoustics, when I was growing up were a terrible mixed bag. These days they are virtually a watchword for excellent production tolerances. So these days there are a slew of guitars which have a great price point and while maybe not made out of the greatest materials with the most attention to detail, are certainly well-made enough to fulfil most of my criteria. Where price is a compromise I also agree that the pickups are likely to be the lowest point and aftermarket pickup & electrics replacement is the best way of bringing these guitars up to spec.

    Where I disagree most is that the innate tone of a guitar from the unamplified sound has no bearing on the amplified tone. I feel it has a massive bearing. I've been involved in builds of identical guitars using different body materials, and had a few guitars custom made where the only difference was the body & neck material. This makes a phenomenal difference to the final amplified tone of the guitar.

    While a great player with a left hand like a jump-lead clamp can probably make a sub-£100 guitar sing like a bird, for most people there will be, I think, an appreciable difference between a 4 or 5-piece glued body of cheap poplar or ash, or worse 'pressed wood', and a 1, 2-piece or capped body. Ditto a quartersawn neck sounds better than a 5 or 7-piece speed machine.

    But 'better' is a subjective term. As stated earlier I don't feel that bolt-on vs set neck with these days' production capabilities is an issue wrt quality of tone, more type. I prefer bolt-on.

    For the speed machines - of which again I've owned plenty - by the time you disengage the string resonance from the body with a floating trem, it becomes less important to pull tone from the woods and fit. At this point, warmer and softer bodies become useful to re-impart lost warmth where they would be too muddy in a fixed-bridge guitar. High-gain pickups and a buttery setup with good trem return become the watchwords and you can end up with as much sustain as before, as the trem block itself imparts resonance and sustain to notes. This is a very definitive effect on tone.

    As I get older I prefer a fixed bridge which is a big change for me. My current squeeze is a 2-piece alder strat with the bridge held down with 5 springs so its flat to the body. This latter is as much a tone choice per se on the part of the designer as a way of getting the best string-body interface while still being within the constraints of being a Stratocaster. The tone of this guitar is so different that over the last few years I've changed all my beloved amps and pedals (sometimes finding that as I change the amp the pedal is no longer usable with it!) but I love it - it has a plumminess and richness in excess of any other strat I have played, that is always commented upon and I believe that comes from the woods and fitting methods.

    A Mexican strat with samarium cobalt replacement pickups (fender noiseless or lindy fralins) or would end up being a great guitar for you.

    When it comes to recording tone I appreciate that for most people the investment in a great guitar, pickups, amplifier, pedals, mic, preamp and other processing may be so great that its more practical to use a simulator.

    For every statement there is a true and corresponding opposite statement. If its true that a great player can coax tone out of a poor guitar and amp combination and still sound like themselves, equally its true that a poor player who doesn't have the time or innate ability, through a great amp and guitar will still sound like stink. There are intersections all along this line but if that player also doesn't have money, and then invests in a simulator and decides that is enough and they now sound great, I feel this is a shortcut too far. I feel that the lower-range PODs and things produce some really poor, fizzy tones that although they sound fine in a mix, don't have the grunt or body to really work in terms of lead playing.

    However as most guitar is fairly low in a mix this isn't necessarily a bad thing. However for live use I still feel a real guitar tone when you're not contending with mics and pres, has to be the way to go.

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