Skip to main content

Best distortion pedal or method for screaming metal vocals

I had this in the vocal booth but got no responses so I'm reposting here, sorry!

I'm recording vocals for a screamo band. This is my chain:

AKG 535EB > Groove Tubes Brick > RNC comp > ADA > VS-880EX

The singing passages sound great but the screaming sections need more gain. My Brick doesn't have an input gain stage so i was wondering if anybody knew some good tricks or knew of a good stomp box they could suggest for using in the effects loop.

I like my signal path so far and don't want a pedal or effect that will color my sound. Something really transparent and natural would be nice. More overdriven than distorted if at all possible for responsiveness.

It would be awesome to know what some other bands have done on their albums like Pantera, Poison the Well, Glass Jaw, etc.



anonymous Wed, 04/12/2006 - 09:57

another solid option is to use the sansamp plugin or amplitube. try compressing/eq'ing after the distortion for a different effect. also, i've reamped vocals into a marshall and blended with the original with great results.

this is like half the fun of recording is trying these things out and being creative.

asking how to get this sound is like an artist asking for instructions on how to paint an abstract painting. you already have the information, it's already somewhere deep in your mind.


anonymous Wed, 04/12/2006 - 12:24

yeah, plug-ins would be a life saver but i'm doing this all through hardware. no computer involved, just the vs-880ex. I suppose later I can dump it to a DAW and jack with plugins but I'd really like something to use during tracking, even if it doesn't go to tape. Hehehe, I wish I had some N72's to use as well...

I think its weird that this issue isn't more common or documented... I think i'll try micing a pa at some point. Seems weird that every other instrument gets amplification or acoustics from somewhere else but vocalists are always expected to run direct.

Does anybody else have any suggestions


I thank you for the advice. Reamping later might be the way to go.

On a debatible point, I don't think your simily is quite apt. I am under the belief that everything is empiric that isn't dedicated directly to human survival. That being said, if nobody ever asked how somebody did something we'd all still be wiping with pine cones because we'd always start over from square one. That can sometimes be a nice place to be but I think i'd like to get the run down of other people's trials and tribulations first :)

Sorry to rant. I guess I get the "use the force" response a little too much on these forums :)

pr0gr4m Wed, 04/12/2006 - 13:47

aphid wrote: I think its weird that this issue isn't more common or documented...

It's probably because its like asking which distortion pedal is best for blah blah blah.

aphid wrote: Seems weird that every other instrument gets amplification or acoustics from somewhere else but vocalists are always expected to run direct.

NOT. First there is the microphone which has a huge effect on the sound of the vocals. Oh and there is amplification....the preamp. Like microphones, preamps can have a huge impact on the sound of the vocal.
After that, if you think about it, the vocal range is mostly in the middle frequencies which means you don't necessarily need a special speaker that can reproduce frequencies from 20Hz up to 20kHz. Unlike keyboards or drums or guitars which can have a much broader frequency spectrum (if that's the right way of saying it).

I work with a guy who won't leave home without his digitech Vocal 300. It's a combo effect box designed for vocals. He uses it for distortion on his vocals. It has some advantages for vocals in that it has XLR ins and outs. It has a decent set of presets to give all sorts of vocal effects from clean to delayed, reverbed, pitch shifted, EQ'd, etc. For what it does, it works pretty well and I've got some great vocals out of it.

I have a SansAmp Tri-AC which I've used with some success also. The fact that it models three different types of amps makes it a bit more versatile in that there are a lot of different options.

I've also used an EV Hot Tubes. I didn't end up keeping the tracks but it did have a pretty unique sound to it.

anonymous Wed, 04/12/2006 - 14:37

you are obiviously correct. preamplification is amplification, but like its name indicates, its generally 'pre' to some other gain stage. I guess my point is that compared to alot of other applications like guitar that go instrument > preamp > power amp > speaker > mic > preamp > tape.

but there is amplification and it does have alot of effect, just as mic selections. I just guess I've always felt that vocalist always get the raw deal because they are so pared down comparitivly. even compared to drums and wind instruments where mic placement and room acoustics seem to be more used. not saying people don't use them with vocals, just that its not as widely practiced.

yeah, i've seen the digitech but multi effects units in general to me seem like toys. I guess I shouldn't generalize. I had one for guitar back in '92 and hated it, so that's probably the reason for my disdain. I'll have to stop being a jerk and check it out. I like the fact it has xlr but i'm assuming it has its own preamp then and wouldn't be best used after the line level signal of my brick...? Sorry if I'm overly paranoid of signal degragation, I just like the detail of the brick.

I did try their Screamin' Blues pedal today and it seemed to be the most transparent, atleast on guitar, of the ones I tried. Almost picked it up but thought I'd check back here first. I wish it had a pad on the input for line level though, but would imagine almost all pedals don't unless they are designed for active electrionts...? that is, to my knowledge (i don't claim to be an expert)

hehehe, i guess my ideal tool would be a line level overdrive true tube box made for vocals that could be used in a loop. Would be handy in case i just wanted to monitor temporarily with it, not lay it to the track, so i can bake it in later when i've got it dialed right. also, the sound guy at a live venue could use it as an insert on a vocal mic coming off the board. i have various multi-effect boxes like the vf-1 but like i said before, i've never liked multi-effects. modelers either for that matter. They just don't sound right to me, hehehehe...

I guess, ultimately, I should just bite the bullet and buy a couple N72 kits from SCA and not worry about it ever again ;)

anonymous Wed, 04/12/2006 - 16:02

On a debatible point, I don't think your simily is quite apt. I am under the belief that everything is empiric that isn't dedicated directly to human survival. That being said, if nobody ever asked how somebody did something we'd all still be wiping with pine cones because we'd always start over from square one. That can sometimes be a nice place to be but I think i'd like to get the run down of other people's trials and tribulations first :D

well, nobody every told me how to record screaming vocals or how to get distortion on them. i use my own logical judgement on it. i see that a guitar amp makes distortion for a guitar, so i think....hmm. maybe it makes a voice have that effect too. before my own band broke up earlier this year, we tried every pedal we owned on vocals to see what it would sound like (which is a lot of pedals). we found the ones that we liked, and found some that didn't do crap. i also tried every plugin that i own on vocals to see what it would sound like.

i do believe that there is a natural evolution in recording. im never going to re-invent EVERYTHING. but there is artistic taste and opinions (what? who has a strong opinion that is a recording engineer??) HOWEVER...all of this cookie cutter give me a 1 to 5 list of how to get this or that sound is what makes recordings sound stale, and what makes "engineering" boring as all hell.

i personally believe that i try to approach everything i work on, no matter how good or bad the music is from an artistic approach and make every recording i do unique and interesting. every time i mic a drum set, i try something new to see how i can make it work for the band, every time i get a guitar sound, i will try many different amps/mics/pres/lighting, etc even if im getting paid fifty cents an hour cause i spend too much time on making things sound "right".

this is obviously something we feel different about. i think a lot of things are found by accident, and then people exploit someone else's finding.

i find the same with art and music.

if you find yourself in a bind, just call for obi wan kenobi (use the force!)


RemyRAD Wed, 04/12/2006 - 16:47

aphid, how can you ask for distortion and then say you want it to be transparent? Are you an oxymoron or what? I suppose you also believe in " military intelligence"?

If something is distorted it's definitely not transparent! When I want some bitchin' distortion, I just overdrive the preamps in my Neve. I have also used tube guitar amplifiers and re-amp it. Quite nice.

Ms. Remo Distorto

anonymous Wed, 04/12/2006 - 18:46


'oxymoron' is only a noun in the figurative sense...

'military intelligence' is only a good pun in those retarded chain emails people forward on to 10 friends...

Perhaps, I didn't define 'transparent' well. I meant that the waveform itself would be distorted but fundamentally similar to the original in tone. Not colored or drastically eq'd. Just a very gained version of the orginal.

but i digress...



i agree with you on most things.

like Obi Wan says, "only the sith deal in absolutes"... (top that, hehehe)

but then people like picasso say, "good aritst copy, great artist steal"... (i'm paraphrasing, of course).

anyways, with your pedal situation. you found some good ones, some okay ones and some bad ones. you can tell me which ones where just god awfull in an fundamentally retarded way and which ones you thought where good for whatever reason. you could even just tell me some of the pitfalls you ran into with things like impedence. it would save me 'x' amount of time. i'd do the same for you brother, its just good business :)

as far as the cookie cutter 1 to 5 stuff. its a message board that has a poll feature. probably not gonna get past it. but if i'm not mistaken, the intrisic purpose of user groups and message boards is to share experiences and opinions to help each other out and further the art. I mean, what other value is there, really? Might as well do away with it cause these threads would just become flame wars between burnt out old producers who automatically assume everybody else is a moron and try to find flaws in every word of every sentence of every post so they can finally have the chance ridicule another human being for being inferior because...

oh wait... they kinda already have... damn it all to hell!

hehehehe :)

and i know the point you where trying to make wasn't about being against posting opinions but really about people just dialing in and coping out becaue they take other people's opinion as law.

my argument is that there are too many haters on these boards that automatically assume everybody else is a moron and instantly post defeatist remarks dismissing the original question as pure conjecture. I'm not saying anybody here is, but why do people like that even bother replying?

then again, why do i even bother going on these off topic rants. ah well..

keep it bitchin'

w/ ( . ) ( . ) w/

anonymous Wed, 04/12/2006 - 20:28

hmmmm. yes no maybe so. i hear what your saying and yes it's true, and i do believe it's true, but also not true. i think the main point is that there are a lot of people that come here and say "what do i need to do to make my guitars sound like K(/)RN, i read somewhere that they use x, y and z."

then someone inevitably replies and says, well, the answer is, it depends.

in your room with your mics and your pres and your marshall and your guitar and your fingers and your hands and your wrists and your arms and your mind and your heart you will obtain a different sound even if x, y and z are the same. it is not math it is art and science.

even the same people will often obtain different sounds using the same setup.

so this is fairly off topic for _this_ thread, *but* the point is that it is not often the question asked as much as the manner the question is interpretted. if it sounds like someone is looking for a user guide on how to obtain particular sounds, some people who have been here a while will give somewhat less than useful.

the pedals that i found useful on vocals were line6 delay modeler, some janky ass fuzz pedal we had, the rat, and we would put it into a fender deville tube amp.

the reamping actually i just used a passive radial di and mic'd the amp.

always any of these dirty vocals were blended together with a clean track to create an interesting sound.


anonymous Wed, 04/12/2006 - 21:40

awesome, i genuinely appreicate your input :D

i've heard the ratt pedal a couple times now, which makes me want to start lurking on ebay. its weird, cause i remember trying on on guitar a number of years ago when Mars music was still around. i hated it on guitar but maybe this will be its redeeming quality.

i've also heard the tech 21 sams amp stuff like pr0gr4m (thanks buddy) has suggested but its more hit or miss there. people's opinions on tech stuff seem to be very polarized.

i've gotten alot of miles out of my tech 21 bass driver using it for what is for, but it bomded on vocals, waaaay colored (duh, its a bass pedal). i tried a big muff (the black pi one) but couldn't dial it down enough. the tone was a bit more even but not quite what i wanted.

its funny that you mentioned the delay modeler from line 6 cause i actually like the disto modeler they had. maybe this will be a good excuse to get that.

for tonights experiment i took my brick and split its output using a 'b' di box. sent one to the rnc compressor and another into a sp vtb-1 because it has a line input and pre-gain. after that i then plug both the out of the brick/di/rnc signal and the brick/di/vtb-1 into the left and right input of an art dio ada converter which then spdifs into the vs-880ex as two channels that i can blend.

this seems to work heads and tails above everything else so far but since the level coming out of the 'b' di box is a little hot i have to engage the 20db attenuate on it before sending it to the vtb-1 and then i have to crank the vtb-1 to get a decent level. if i don't attenuate then i get waaay to much gain. ah well, i've got a cheapo 'b' mixer i might try instead of the di box and see if that gives me more control. i hate having either in my chain but i don't feel like ordering out for a mic splitter to run before the pres. None of the GC's around here carry them in stock.

in either regards, from my pursuits so far, is that is if you go the pedal route make sure it doesn't just have a 'tone' knob. i've found those to be the most colored and hardest to get a natural tone out of. a low and hi eq knob works well but i'm betting a mid knob would round things out extremly well.

does anybody happen to know of a pedal that has a pad or impedence switch on it to accept line level or active electronis? wondering if that might be a good thing to have. i know alot of heads have a hi and low gain input these days.