Gain staging suggestions? (Vox/Rat)

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Gain staging suggestions? (Vox/Rat)

Post by stevejamsecono » Fri Oct 30, 2020 12:51 pm

So my foray into two-tired pedalboards has gone fairly well and I have to say I'm about 90% satisfied with what I've got going right now.

Image

Current chain is Highway 1 Tele > EB Volume > Tuner > SD Vice Grip > EHX Pitchfork > Retrosonic Flanger > SD1 > Chicago Stompworks Rat Clone > TC Flashback 2. Sounds pretty great, but I'm still fussing with the gain-staging to get exactly what I want.

At the moment I have my "edge of breakup/regular rhythm sound" coming from the Vice Grip, using the SD1 to boost for choruses, and then the Rat for lead work/solos. The combined bass cut from the SD1/Rat combo isn't really doing it for me though, and I'd like the "big rhythm" sound to have a bit more low end to it, so I wanted to see if anyone had any good ideas.

Right now I'm considering either a 1 knob boost like the Boosta Grande/EP Booster/Micro Amp/SD Booster or something simple like a DOD250 that wouldn't so blatantly shelve the bass.

Thoughts?
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Re: Gain staging suggestions? (Vox/Rat)

Post by ElephantDNA » Fri Oct 30, 2020 2:27 pm

I would second the 250. Easily one of the best purchases I've ever made.

My current setup for my AC30 is:

Always on:
DOD 250 (volume cranked, tone to taste)
King of Tone

Choruses/heavier sections - what you're calling "big rhythm" sound:
Red Llama
Dod Classic Fuzz

Solos:
Tech 21 OMG

I've been pretty happy with this, though this weekend I'm going to try out a few of my other dirt options that have been collecting dust. One option that works well with Vox amps is any kind of FET boost. You can pick up a DOD fet boost or a FA-1 variant/clone on the cheap. That might be a cool option. The Distortion+ is basically a cousin with the 250 also - very similar but some people have a preference either way. EHX hot tubes is another very inexpensive option.

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Re: Gain staging suggestions? (Vox/Rat)

Post by marqueemoon » Fri Oct 30, 2020 7:03 pm

Yeah, even though I use different gear I can relate to this issue. Big Rhythm can end up sounding smaller if a bunch of bass is getting lopped off.

Depending on how much the amp is already breaking up a little push can sometimes be enough to punch up a rhythm sound.

I think an EP Booster, SHO, or Micro Amp would be a good choice for a slight thickening effect without being radically different and still workable with the Rat.

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Re: Gain staging suggestions? (Vox/Rat)

Post by ElephantDNA » Fri Oct 30, 2020 10:42 pm

marqueemoon wrote:
Fri Oct 30, 2020 7:03 pm
Yeah, even though I use different gear I can relate to this issue. Big Rhythm can end up sounding smaller if a bunch of bass is getting lopped off.

Depending on how much the amp is already breaking up a little push can sometimes be enough to punch up a rhythm sound.

I think an EP Booster, SHO, or Micro Amp would be a good choice for a slight thickening effect without being radically different and still workable with the Rat.
This is very similar. The micro amp I think is just a distortion plus without distortion and the SHO is a FET boost with a ton of volume. Similar approach but those will be a little cleaner. Personally I like having the option for an additional gain knob even though I set it pretty low. I guess it comes down to whether you prefer opamp or FET. The nice thing is you can pick up plenty of cheap clones/used and try out both if you want!

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Re: Gain staging suggestions? (Vox/Rat)

Post by stevejamsecono » Sat Oct 31, 2020 5:13 am

ElephantDNA wrote:
Fri Oct 30, 2020 10:42 pm
marqueemoon wrote:
Fri Oct 30, 2020 7:03 pm
Yeah, even though I use different gear I can relate to this issue. Big Rhythm can end up sounding smaller if a bunch of bass is getting lopped off.

Depending on how much the amp is already breaking up a little push can sometimes be enough to punch up a rhythm sound.

I think an EP Booster, SHO, or Micro Amp would be a good choice for a slight thickening effect without being radically different and still workable with the Rat.
This is very similar. The micro amp I think is just a distortion plus without distortion and the SHO is a FET boost with a ton of volume. Similar approach but those will be a little cleaner. Personally I like having the option for an additional gain knob even though I set it pretty low. I guess it comes down to whether you prefer opamp or FET. The nice thing is you can pick up plenty of cheap clones/used and try out both if you want!
Yeah Reverb is a godsend for these kind of experiments, especially since I'm not after anything too rare or expensive. Chicago Stompworks (who made my Rat) make 250 and Red Llama clones, both of which I've been curious about. Sadly I didn't jump on the 250 or the Bifet Boost when DOD was blowing them both out for 40 bucks a few months ago :fp:

Any other two-knob FET boosters come to mind? I do like the idea of separate volume/gain knobs so maybe the Fat Boost...?
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Re: Gain staging suggestions? (Vox/Rat)

Post by marqueemoon » Sat Oct 31, 2020 6:50 am

stevejamsecono wrote:
Sat Oct 31, 2020 5:13 am
ElephantDNA wrote:
Fri Oct 30, 2020 10:42 pm
marqueemoon wrote:
Fri Oct 30, 2020 7:03 pm
Yeah, even though I use different gear I can relate to this issue. Big Rhythm can end up sounding smaller if a bunch of bass is getting lopped off.

Depending on how much the amp is already breaking up a little push can sometimes be enough to punch up a rhythm sound.

I think an EP Booster, SHO, or Micro Amp would be a good choice for a slight thickening effect without being radically different and still workable with the Rat.
This is very similar. The micro amp I think is just a distortion plus without distortion and the SHO is a FET boost with a ton of volume. Similar approach but those will be a little cleaner. Personally I like having the option for an additional gain knob even though I set it pretty low. I guess it comes down to whether you prefer opamp or FET. The nice thing is you can pick up plenty of cheap clones/used and try out both if you want!
Yeah Reverb is a godsend for these kind of experiments, especially since I'm not after anything too rare or expensive. Chicago Stompworks (who made my Rat) make 250 and Red Llama clones, both of which I've been curious about. Sadly I didn't jump on the 250 or the Bifet Boost when DOD was blowing them both out for 40 bucks a few months ago :fp:

Any other two-knob FET boosters come to mind? I do like the idea of separate volume/gain knobs so maybe the Fat Boost...?
I used a Fat Boost with a Rat/Carmen Ghia/Tele for a while. I found it overly warm. Plus fuck that guy.

Oh, and I had a HBE two knob SHO thing for a minute. There were only a few settings where it didn’t have an ungodly amount of hiss. I returned it.

The Emerson EM Drive circuit might be another to check out.

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Re: Gain staging suggestions? (Vox/Rat)

Post by s_mcsleazy » Sat Oct 31, 2020 7:07 am

use a pedal that's going to change the EQ of the rat before the rat. i use a modded LPB1 where you can dial in the gain. it's more of a midrange boost than just a normal lpb1.

maybe have something like an eq pedal before it.
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Re: Gain staging suggestions? (Vox/Rat)

Post by fuzzjunkie » Sat Oct 31, 2020 9:47 am

When I used a Rat with my AC-30, which is an older red panel Top Boost model with Greenbacks, but I did the same with a grey panel with Silver bells, was have the amp set for the edge of breaking up tone and the Rat was for Marshall style rhythm crunch.

I never used the Rat for solos. It makes a fun sound to occasionally dime the gain and wail away, but I usually keep it at 10-10.5 on the dial as an overdrive. I prefer a good Tonebender or Rangemaster type pedal for solos with a Vox amp. A Big Muff can ok work too.

I never stacked gain pedals back then, and seldom do now, so I didn’t experience the subtracting bass effect from doing that. I still have the Rat, but it’s been replaced on my board with something more transparent that delivers more of a Marshall crunch and can handle stacking. It has bass and treble controls in a Baxandall tone stack, so no bass loss.

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Re: Gain staging suggestions? (Vox/Rat)

Post by ElephantDNA » Sat Oct 31, 2020 10:10 am

stevejamsecono wrote:
Sat Oct 31, 2020 5:13 am
Yeah Reverb is a godsend for these kind of experiments, especially since I'm not after anything too rare or expensive. Chicago Stompworks (who made my Rat) make 250 and Red Llama clones, both of which I've been curious about. Sadly I didn't jump on the 250 or the Bifet Boost when DOD was blowing them both out for 40 bucks a few months ago :fp:
The red llama I referenced above is actually the Chicago legitimate beef version (just faster to call it the llama). Very impressed at the build quality and sound for the price on that one. I think they have both a SHO clone (their booost) and a 250 clone (grey spec) available on sale on their website right now. Might be worth checking out - $100 bucks and you could try both isn't too bad of a deal. Reverb has a lot of other great options if you search for "clone" too. From Montreal pedals is a guy out of Canada doing some clone circuits that I have also been impressed with build quality.
s_mcsleazy wrote:
Sat Oct 31, 2020 7:07 am
use a pedal that's going to change the EQ of the rat before the rat. i use a modded LPB1 where you can dial in the gain. it's more of a midrange boost than just a normal lpb1.

maybe have something like an eq pedal before it.
I like the LPB-1 in a lot of applications, but with vox amps specifically, I think I prefer FET boosts. A little rowdier (and some people would say noisier) but I like the way the vox takes them. It's a pretty classic combination - there's a reason this was famously what the edge used. Prior to that technology, people used rangemasters for a similar purpose which I think were germanium. Definitely a vintage vibe to that type of thing, but since we're after more low-end I think treble booster isn't what we want in this case.
stevejamsecono wrote:
Sat Oct 31, 2020 5:13 am
Any other two-knob FET boosters come to mind? I do like the idea of separate volume/gain knobs so maybe the Fat Boost...?
I think MXR makes a FET boost that has an eq and gain. Another interesting option that I've wanted to try is the custom-shop OCD-ge they have put out recently that has stages of both FET and Germanium, so that's sort of elements of the FA-1 and the Rangemaster in the same box. Fulltone fat boost is also FET, yeah.

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Re: Gain staging suggestions? (Vox/Rat)

Post by stevejamsecono » Sat Oct 31, 2020 1:05 pm

ElephantDNA wrote:
Sat Oct 31, 2020 10:10 am
stevejamsecono wrote:
Sat Oct 31, 2020 5:13 am
Yeah Reverb is a godsend for these kind of experiments, especially since I'm not after anything too rare or expensive. Chicago Stompworks (who made my Rat) make 250 and Red Llama clones, both of which I've been curious about. Sadly I didn't jump on the 250 or the Bifet Boost when DOD was blowing them both out for 40 bucks a few months ago :fp:
The red llama I referenced above is actually the Chicago legitimate beef version (just faster to call it the llama). Very impressed at the build quality and sound for the price on that one. I think they have both a SHO clone (their booost) and a 250 clone (grey spec) available on sale on their website right now. Might be worth checking out - $100 bucks and you could try both isn't too bad of a deal. Reverb has a lot of other great options if you search for "clone" too. From Montreal pedals is a guy out of Canada doing some clone circuits that I have also been impressed with build quality.
s_mcsleazy wrote:
Sat Oct 31, 2020 7:07 am
use a pedal that's going to change the EQ of the rat before the rat. i use a modded LPB1 where you can dial in the gain. it's more of a midrange boost than just a normal lpb1.

maybe have something like an eq pedal before it.
I like the LPB-1 in a lot of applications, but with vox amps specifically, I think I prefer FET boosts. A little rowdier (and some people would say noisier) but I like the way the vox takes them. It's a pretty classic combination - there's a reason this was famously what the edge used. Prior to that technology, people used rangemasters for a similar purpose which I think were germanium. Definitely a vintage vibe to that type of thing, but since we're after more low-end I think treble booster isn't what we want in this case.
stevejamsecono wrote:
Sat Oct 31, 2020 5:13 am
Any other two-knob FET boosters come to mind? I do like the idea of separate volume/gain knobs so maybe the Fat Boost...?
I think MXR makes a FET boost that has an eq and gain. Another interesting option that I've wanted to try is the custom-shop OCD-ge they have put out recently that has stages of both FET and Germanium, so that's sort of elements of the FA-1 and the Rangemaster in the same box. Fulltone fat boost is also FET, yeah.
Ooh man, good to know re: the sales. Just wish the art was like.. 30% less goofy. Hmmm.

And I forgot about the MXR FET Booster. Discontinued now, but I'll keep an eye out...
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It's so hard to understand
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Re: Gain staging suggestions? (Vox/Rat)

Post by spiffy chap » Sat Oct 31, 2020 3:18 pm

Zvex Channel Two is SHO with a master volume

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Re: Gain staging suggestions? (Vox/Rat)

Post by øøøøøøø » Sun Nov 01, 2020 6:21 am

In terms of gain staging, is your intent to use your volume pedal principally to control the level of drive?

If not, and if you want the volume pedal as a volume control while keeping drive constant (or controllable by touch and guitar volume knob), consider putting your drive pedals first (after tuner, maybe) THEN volume pedal in the middle, then time-based effects (flanger, etc) at the end.

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Re: Gain staging suggestions? (Vox/Rat)

Post by stevejamsecono » Sun Nov 01, 2020 6:57 am

øøøøøøø wrote:
Sun Nov 01, 2020 6:21 am
In terms of gain staging, is your intent to use your volume pedal principally to control the level of drive?

If not, and if you want the volume pedal as a volume control while keeping drive constant (or controllable by touch and guitar volume knob), consider putting your drive pedals first (after tuner, maybe) THEN volume pedal in the middle, then time-based effects (flanger, etc) at the end.
I mostly use it for swells/special effects and tend to prefer it at the front of the chain for that. I've tried it after the drives and haven't been that crazy about it, tbh, although I know a lot of people like it that way.

EDIT: I should also clarify that I'm a pretty judicious user of the guitar's volume knobs, so the volume pedal isn't there for anything other than said duties.
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It's so hard to understand
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Re: Gain staging suggestions? (Vox/Rat)

Post by ElephantDNA » Sun Nov 01, 2020 12:52 pm

fuzzjunkie wrote:
Sat Oct 31, 2020 9:47 am
When I used a Rat with my AC-30, which is an older red panel Top Boost model with Greenbacks, but I did the same with a grey panel with Silver bells, was have the amp set for the edge of breaking up tone and the Rat was for Marshall style rhythm crunch.

I never used the Rat for solos. It makes a fun sound to occasionally dime the gain and wail away, but I usually keep it at 10-10.5 on the dial as an overdrive. I prefer a good Tonebender or Rangemaster type pedal for solos with a Vox amp. A Big Muff can ok work too.

I never stacked gain pedals back then, and seldom do now, so I didn’t experience the subtracting bass effect from doing that. I still have the Rat, but it’s been replaced on my board with something more transparent that delivers more of a Marshall crunch and can handle stacking. It has bass and treble controls in a Baxandall tone stack, so no bass loss.
I think the grey channel is basically a modified 250 with options to change the clipping diodes. Everything from FET to Silicon is in there! Haven't played it but it seems like an interesting option for boost/OD because of the versatility. Rat can be similar that way - super versatile and has a lot of options. I can see using it for rhythm or leads or both it just depends on what pickups you have, how you set it up and what you're doing with guitar volume. I don't think there's really a wrong way to use it, it just depends on what you're doing with the rest of the setup.

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Re: Gain staging suggestions? (Vox/Rat)

Post by fuzzjunkie » Mon Nov 02, 2020 9:47 am

ElephantDNA wrote:
Sun Nov 01, 2020 12:52 pm
fuzzjunkie wrote:
Sat Oct 31, 2020 9:47 am
When I used a Rat with my AC-30, which is an older red panel Top Boost model with Greenbacks, but I did the same with a grey panel with Silver bells, was have the amp set for the edge of breaking up tone and the Rat was for Marshall style rhythm crunch.

I never used the Rat for solos. It makes a fun sound to occasionally dime the gain and wail away, but I usually keep it at 10-10.5 on the dial as an overdrive. I prefer a good Tonebender or Rangemaster type pedal for solos with a Vox amp. A Big Muff can ok work too.

I never stacked gain pedals back then, and seldom do now, so I didn’t experience the subtracting bass effect from doing that. I still have the Rat, but it’s been replaced on my board with something more transparent that delivers more of a Marshall crunch and can handle stacking. It has bass and treble controls in a Baxandall tone stack, so no bass loss.
I think the grey channel is basically a modified 250 with options to change the clipping diodes. Everything from FET to Silicon is in there! Haven't played it but it seems like an interesting option for boost/OD because of the versatility. Rat can be similar that way - super versatile and has a lot of options. I can see using it for rhythm or leads or both it just depends on what pickups you have, how you set it up and what you're doing with guitar volume. I don't think there's really a wrong way to use it, it just depends on what you're doing with the rest of the setup.
I think you are correct that the Grey Channel pedal is a 250 type distortion, I was talking about a grey panel Vox AC-30.

*all dates are approximates, I am not an authority on vintage Vox amps and I don’t think anyone knows the exact dates changes were made.

Vox used a red panel on their buff colored combos from 1959-1961, and on the black combos with brown grill cloth from 1961-64. These had the Blue Celestion speakers. Top Boosts were added as a mod component to the back of the combo head in 1962-63, and then in late ‘63 or early ‘64 they started adding it to the panel controls.

The Grey panel amps have black grill clothes and the Top Boost is fully integrated into the control panel. Some of the early ones have the Blue Celestions, but Celestion changed the color to silver in 1965, so those are called Silver Bells to distinguish them from the Blues even though they’re the same speaker.

For a while I used a re-issue Colorsound Tonebender that isn’t a classic transitor Tonebender, but is actually a Distortion + with a tone control. It sounded pretty good into an AC-30. Not as good as a regular Tonebender but I liked it better than the Big Muff.

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