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loydall

Best amp to run overdrives into

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Hi - I have a couple of overdrive pedals I'll be running into my hx stomp. Any recommendations for an amp block that would act as a good clean platform for overdrives?

 

Cheers 

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IMO it depends a lot (possibly even the most) on which cab you're running things into, as with clean amps that will be the deciding factor for the overall voicing (well, not only for clean amps) and hence define whether your drives will sound sweet and silky or harsh and biting (or anything inbetween).

Anyway, my personal favourites as clean pedal platforms are the Princess, the Cali IV Rhythm 1, the Cali Texas Ch 1 and sometimes the Placater Clean. I usually set all of them so they allow for a lot of real clean headroom (I often like/need completely clean sounds).

If you can get away with a tad of dirt on the amp, I like the P75 or one of the other Marshall variations (the Line 6 2204 Mod takes pedals pretty well IMO, but you might even have to roll down your guitar volume for a completely clean sound as it doesn't sound too great with drive values <0.8 anymore, at least to my ears). Whenever I don't need completely clean sounds.I prefer one of those as a little bit of dirt on the amp seems to "gel" sounds together a bit better.

Regarding cabs, out of the ones coming with the Helix, I prefer the two 4x12 Greenback models, but the Cali IV or Cali EXT aren't all that bad, either. I also sometimes like the 4x10 Tweed cab. Most of the times I'm using one of my own IRs or one of the RedWirez Big Pack, though (especially live).

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Possibly the most famous and recognized amp for accepting pedals is the HiWatt or WhoWatt as it's known in the Helix.  This amp really took over the music industry 40 or so years ago among the elite artists at the time like the Doobie Bros, Eric Clapton, The Who and many others and has remained a mainstay amp because of it's unique ability to work well with various pedals, and the Helix model of that amp maintains that tradition.

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4 hours ago, SaschaFranck said:

IMO it depends a lot (possibly even the most) on which cab you're running things into, as with clean amps that will be the deciding factor for the overall voicing (well, not only for clean amps) and hence define whether your drives will sound sweet and silky or harsh and biting (or anything inbetween).

Anyway, my personal favourites as clean pedal platforms are the Princess, the Cali IV Rhythm 1, the Cali Texas Ch 1 and sometimes the Placater Clean. I usually set all of them so they allow for a lot of real clean headroom (I often like/need completely clean sounds).

If you can get away with a tad of dirt on the amp, I like the P75 or one of the other Marshall variations (the Line 6 2204 Mod takes pedals pretty well IMO, but you might even have to roll down your guitar volume for a completely clean sound as it doesn't sound too great with drive values <0.8 anymore, at least to my ears). Whenever I don't need completely clean sounds.I prefer one of those as a little bit of dirt on the amp seems to "gel" sounds together a bit better.

Regarding cabs, out of the ones coming with the Helix, I prefer the two 4x12 Greenback models, but the Cali IV or Cali EXT aren't all that bad, either. I also sometimes like the 4x10 Tweed cab. Most of the times I'm using one of my own IRs or one of the RedWirez Big Pack, though (especially live).

In terms of cabs I'm running the HX Stomp into a power amp and then into 2 1x12 orange amps. So no cab patches. 

 

Thanks for your input.

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3 hours ago, DunedinDragon said:

Possibly the most famous and recognized amp for accepting pedals is the HiWatt or WhoWatt as it's known in the Helix. 

 

I always found the Helix' Hiwatt to be sort of brittle, but it kind of starts to grow on me (probably has been the default cab, which I really don't like much). Not too likely it'll ever become my favourite, though.

 

Fwiw, in real analog life, the best pedal platform amp I ever owned has been my Boogie Mk IV. In the end I even stopped using the other 2 channels but Rhythm 1 entirely. But I'm sure the major part of this thing working so well has been my cabs (4x12 Orange with original Greenbacks, 2x12 Mesa clone with Vintage 30 and a Peavey Sheffield, 1x12 open back with a Celestion G12H100). Was kinda proven because when I finally swapped the speakers in an 80s redknob "The Twin" in favour of the ones I had in my 2x12 cab, it instantly turned from a horrible, shrill, beamy experience (those "Fender Special Design" speakers the amp came with were godawful) into something almost as great as the Mk IV (just too heavy for most situations).

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4 hours ago, SaschaFranck said:

 

I always found the Helix' Hiwatt to be sort of brittle, but it kind of starts to grow on me (probably has been the default cab, which I really don't like much). Not too likely it'll ever become my favourite, though.

 

Fwiw, in real analog life, the best pedal platform amp I ever owned has been my Boogie Mk IV. In the end I even stopped using the other 2 channels but Rhythm 1 entirely. But I'm sure the major part of this thing working so well has been my cabs (4x12 Orange with original Greenbacks, 2x12 Mesa clone with Vintage 30 and a Peavey Sheffield, 1x12 open back with a Celestion G12H100). Was kinda proven because when I finally swapped the speakers in an 80s redknob "The Twin" in favour of the ones I had in my 2x12 cab, it instantly turned from a horrible, shrill, beamy experience (those "Fender Special Design" speakers the amp came with were godawful) into something almost as great as the Mk IV (just too heavy for most situations).


I owned an actual HiWatt for years and I really didn't appreciate the Helix model until I paired it with the original Fane speaker IRs from Rewirez and it became the amp I loved for so long.  I still use it extensively on a lot of  70's and 80's classic rock styles and there is no better amp for getting the Joe Walsh signature sound when it's paired with a Minotaur or Teemah.

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35 minutes ago, DunedinDragon said:

until I paired it with the original Fane speaker IRs from Rewirez

 

Hm, I should probably give that a try (got the RW Big Pack ever since it got released over a decade ago or so).

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21 hours ago, DunedinDragon said:


I owned an actual HiWatt for years and I really didn't appreciate the Helix model until I paired it with the original Fane speaker IRs from Rewirez and it became the amp I loved for so long.  I still use it extensively on a lot of  70's and 80's classic rock styles and there is no better amp for getting the Joe Walsh signature sound when it's paired with a Minotaur or Teemah.

For some reason I'd always skipped past the helix WhoWatt but after you mentioned it I gave it a go and absolutely love it. Too many good options with the Helix. I think I need to force myself to sit down every weekend with a different amp block and treat it like I just went out and spent £££ on it (as in, give it plenty of time and attention). Just as a clean amp it's got a really great feel to it and does take pedals really well.

 

Thanks for the suggestion.

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Maybe I'm wrong but I always thought the purpose of an overdrive was to drive the input of an amp, the goal being to maintain the character of the amp while providing more gain than the amp provides, and/or shaping the tone before the amp's gain stage to tweak the saturation. So in that sense, any amp can be a good platform for overdrives. When I got my X3L years ago, it was the first time I had access to a "Tube Screamer"-type overdrive, and I used to spend hours just putting it in front of every amp model on the list, and they all sounded good in their own way. So I would suggest running your pedals, with the same setting you would use on a real amp, through every amp model in the Helix and finding the sound you're after, rather than choosing one based on anecdotal reports of compatibility. 

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3 minutes ago, zappazapper said:

Maybe I'm wrong but I always thought the purpose of an overdrive was to drive the input of an amp, the goal being to maintain the character of the amp while providing more gain than the amp provides, and/or shaping the tone before the amp's gain stage to tweak the saturation. So in that sense, any amp can be a good platform for overdrives. When I got my X3L years ago, it was the first time I had access to a "Tube Screamer"-type overdrive, and I used to spend hours just putting it in front of every amp model on the list, and they all sounded good in their own way. So I would suggest running your pedals, with the same setting you would use on a real amp, through every amp model in the Helix and finding the sound you're after, rather than choosing one based on anecdotal reports of compatibility. 

 

I think there are 2 approaches . Either run your amps at the edge of breakup and then drive them further with overdrives enhancing the amp's own overdriven characteristics with those of the pedal. Or -  you run your amp very clean and you get the pure sound of the pedal overdrive on its own. Both are valid and I'm not saying one is better than the other. There's definitely a difference between the 2. 

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8 minutes ago, zappazapper said:

the goal being to maintain the character of the amp while providing more gain than the amp provides,

 

Well, if it was only that, it'd render a whole plethora of drive pedals pretty much useless. As @loydall said already, there's two different approaches (and of course a mix of both). Clean pedal platform amps usually allow for a whole lot more flexibility as you can just slap another pedal onto your pedalboard, possibly giving you an entirely different sound. With amps you'd have to purchase them all, carry them around and find a way to get the required routing done.

I mean, there's several MITB ("Marshall In A Box") pedals, pretty much their main goal being to work in front of a clean amp.

Fwiw, I own an Egnater Goldsmith overdrive pedal. That one works particularly well in front of completely clean amps but not even remotely as well in front of any driven amps (for whatever reasons unknown to me).

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6 minutes ago, loydall said:

Both are valid and I'm not saying one is better than the other.

Fair enough. I guess I'm in the one camp. I never liked the sound of a Tube Screamer's gain turned up full. I just like the way it hits the input of an amp when its gain is at zero and its volume is at max. To each his own. I think I recall the Fender Deluxe being pointed out as the ultimate pedal platform somewhere. 

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Maybe I'm just getting hung up on terminology. To me, a pedal that provides its own saturation that's intended to simply be amplified is a "distortion" pedal, and an overdrive is something that's supposed to hit the input of an amp harder and with some tonal character that changes or improves the amp's character, rather than an overdrive just being a less intense distortion pedal. 

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3 minutes ago, zappazapper said:

Maybe I'm just getting hung up on terminology. To me, a pedal that provides its own saturation that's intended to simply be amplified is a "distortion" pedal, and an overdrive is something that's supposed to hit the input of an amp harder and with some tonal character that changes or improves the amp's character, rather than an overdrive just being a less intense distortion pedal. 

 

Well, usually overdrive pedals deliver a smoother, less driven sound while distortion pedals are more agressive, producing more drive, too. Sometimes you can't even clearly distinguish the two.

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And fwiw, a Tube Screamer is indeed working best as a booster pedal, the drive itself is kinda gnarly - plus, it's always as if a part of the clean signal is still coming through. Which makes them a useful tool to boost an already driven amp.

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Update on my search for the best (for me) amp model to run drives into... I've really got into the Matchstick Ch1. Just as a clean(ish) platform it sounds incredible and, for my tastes, takes pedals better than other amp models I've tried. I'm running my helix into a Pedal Baby and it's probably the best sound I've had from any amp I've owned (and I've owned a few valve amps in my time). Can't believe I've skipped right past the Matchstick Ch1 all this time and not bothered playing with it. Running a Teemah! set very low gain but just boosting things a touch sounds incredible. Then I run my Lightspeed and Protein in the fx loop. For now, this is perfect for me.

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On 10/21/2021 at 3:58 PM, zappazapper said:

To me, a pedal that provides its own saturation that's intended to simply be amplified is a "distortion" pedal, and an overdrive is something that's supposed to hit the input of an amp harder

 

A pedal that does nothing more than push the front of an amp harder would be a clean boost or a variant of one (EQ, Treble Boost, etc... etc...)

Overdrives use soft clipping to add dirt.... to varying degrees. 

Distortions use hard clipping to add dirt.... to varying degrees. 

 

There is a lot of overlap between an overdrive and a distortion. Even clean boosts can come with a little grit themselves. 

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1 hour ago, codamedia said:

 

A pedal that does nothing more than push the front of an amp harder would be a clean boost or a variant of one (EQ, Treble Boost, etc... etc...)

Overdrives use soft clipping to add dirt.... to varying degrees. 

Distortions use hard clipping to add dirt.... to varying degrees. 

 

There is a lot of overlap between an overdrive and a distortion. Even clean boosts can come with a little grit themselves. 

 

I don't have any issue with your suggested distinctions whatsoever.

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