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The Gentle Art Of Sounding Filthy

Discussion in 'Bass Pedals, Effects & Preamps' started by DiMarco, Mar 2, 2017.

  1. DiMarco

    DiMarco nutcase Good Vibe Sponsor

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    When it comes to dirtboxes, I have been around.
    Here's what I know. I share this for those who struggle choosing the right overdrive, distortion or fuzz pedals.

    Often on the bass forums I see people asking questions like "what is the best overdrive for bass?"

    Well tadaaaaa - There isn't any best in music -

    Over the past decade I have played active and passive 4, 5 and 6 string basses of various brands and types through several solid state, class D and tube amps and a number of different 5, 8, 10, 12, 15 and even 18 inch speaker bass cabs. I have used most of my dirtboxes in all combinations.

    There is also besides the dark side (fuzz!) need for two grades (mild and not so mild at all) of roughly three classes of overdrive/distortion. In my mind I always separate the mid heavy overdrives, scooped "metal" distortions and full range tuby "always on" dirtboxes one uses to simple get some grit. Keep these three groups in mind. You will want to pick a pedal from one of them for what you need.

    So what gives?
    1. The amp+cab you use is not a strong factor in deciding the right dirtbox, but it is a factor indeed. When your tone is of the more oldskool type without a hf unit in your cabinet, dirtboxes known to sound "fizzy" will not be any problem for you.

    2. The bass guitar you play is the MAJOR factor in whether or not a certain dirtbox will work for you. Here's what I experienced:
      • Jazz basses, especially with seventies pickup positions don't cut through guitar heavy mixes very well by nature. They sound scooped. Mid heavy overdrives don't work very well with them, modern "scooped" distortions and full range gritty pedals do.
      • Mid heavy passive basses like Precisions, Rics and Grabbers work well with ANY dirtbox
      • Many dirtboxes sound really crappy when using modern, full range (yes, with treble) basses Like the Warwicks and Zons I have owned. Fuzz boxes work like a charm with any of them so no worries there.
      • When playing 5 or 6 string basses, some of the pedals that emulate tubes will sound crap on the low B unless you apply compression or high pass filtering before the signal enters the dirtbox.

    3. All digital overdrives, distortions and fuzzi are CRAP, even in 2017. Don't try those cheapo multi fx pedals from Zoom, Korg or whatever. Those are for the bedroom bassist market.

    4. Running your otherwise fizzy fuzzbox into a mild, tubey overdrive = heaven. If you have a tube or hybrid amp, you can use this to match but I prefer an overdrive pedal I can disengage when I need ultra clean tone for a few seconds (this almost never occurs but still).
    So after experimenting a lot with things, here is what I think of the pedals I still remember:

    Catalinbread Dirty Little Secret

    Recently bought this. It emulates the tone stack and tube drive of the legendary Marshall Superbass 100 tube amp. Chris Squire of Yes used such amps to get his extra growly "in your face" tone. The pedal does exactly that, but only with the P and Rics. With any of my active basses it sounds weak. The pedal is very sensitive to where you place it in your chain and really only works well when it is the last pedal before the amp. With the right bass though it sounds VERY good. Don't dial in too much low end or stuff in the room will break.

    Darkglass VMT/deluxe

    Works well with any bass except for the active Jazz I had, which was very scooped by nature. Gets you into a more oldskool grind when using it with a Warwick or Zon, which is hard to accomplish with other dirtboxes. She's a keeper.

    Darkglass B3K/B7K/ultra

    With passive basses I always have to raise my signal level with another pedal to make the Ultra or B?K give me enough dirt even with the "drive" dial maxxed out. The grunt and attack switches only have one setting that seems usable. The "bass" dial on its EQ on it degrades my amp tone when using it with the tube amp, bottom end loses its tightness because too much of it is hitting the first tube in my pre section. That said, if you're after modern sounding dirt like Karnivool or Tool have there is no other pedal on the planet that can do it as well as this one. Use it with an active bass with a modern sounding amp and you have yourself some really excellent tone.

    Darkglass Duality dual fuzz engine

    Didn't know what to make of this, is it a fuzz or a very extreme distortion? There is no mild setting only extreme noise. One side of the engine is regular fuzz, the other side is closer to distortion. You can blend between the two. Too aggressive for the rock music I play. Might be great for grind/speed and other shapes of heavy music.

    EHX Bass Big Muff

    Seriously, skip this pedal. Get a regular Big Muff instead. It doesn't work well with any of my basses, always sounds woolly without any definition. There's a switch on it that allows you to go regular muff, blend in your clean signal or add extra bottom end. The added bottom end isn't ever tight though and the regular big muff mode doesn't come close to a regular big muff.

    EHX Big Muff (USA)

    The daddy. I have the original larger one, bought it in the early nineties. Footswitch on it sadly died. Muse uses two of them. Organic, tight and with bottom end that can bring down satellites. I would still use it if I didn't have the Zeus pedal nowadays, which adds a suboctave when needed.

    MXR M80 bass DI+

    Really nice pre with overdrive. It sounds a bit scooped so is great for hardrock and metal. It is in the same line of distortions as the Darkglass B7k of which I prefered the B7K.

    MXR El Grande Bass Fuzz

    This is a fuzz pedal with a mind entirely of its own. If you like your fuzz to create chaos then this is the pedal for you. Tight is not a word that is in its vocabulary

    Red Witch Zeus

    Analog fuzz with an extra switch on it that engages a sub octaver. Sounds huuuuge. I think it is gated because it is completely silent in between the notes you play. Can semi emulate a dying 9v battery which is awesome in the decay stage of the notes you play. It actually sounds like it is broken then. Awesome! It replaced my Big Muff and is an upgrade if you want agressive, clear sounding fuzz. The Muff is more organic sounding.

    Tech21 VTbass

    Sansamp pedal that emulates Ampeg tube amps. Ampeggifies your tone but lacks warmth in doing so. Its strength is in the sansamp bit, you can stick it straight into the console and you will sound like using a bass stack. Its overdriven tone isn't very good though. Don't use it as an overdrive.


    Please add your experiences with dirtboxes to this list. Thanks!
     
    Last edited: Mar 2, 2017
  2. jester

    jester ocdemon Moderator

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    Great info there Marco, thanks for sharing your experience.

    I used to play with an MXR M80 DI+ and the main problem I had was making my dirty tone sound like my clean tone. I never managed to do that, or when I did that and tried to play with my band, the dirty tone would disappear, I couldn't hear it! The only solution was making the dirty tone louder than the clean tone, so I could hear it. I always wondered if this was a general problem with all overdrive pedals, or something (possibly?) better like the Darkglass B7K would retain clarity with dirt, when the dirty and clean tone are the same frequency and volume-wise.
     
  3. DiMarco

    DiMarco nutcase Good Vibe Sponsor

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    M80 scoops your tone. This is a problem when the guitars are mid heavy, which they are in 90% of the time. It works great when downtuned metal guitars are involved, which are also often scooped.

    I sold it for this reason, sounds like the vintage microtubes pedal would work better for you. It does for me.
     
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  4. Nachobassman

    Nachobassman Bass, Tapas, and Rn´R!

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    OK, I love this thread and the title rocks, so let´s get down to business:

    Boss SD-1:
    My first aproach to dirt sounds when playing bass was this mid-90's, I guess japanese, Boss Super OverDrive SD-1, "the yellow pedal", as my brother and I like to call it. Some day I discovered by accident it sounded über-cool on bass, even though it cuts all the low end (it is a eggslicer pedal). I remember when I used it live, and there was a soundguy and we had the means (that happened twice, no more, LOL), I asked for clean and SD-1 channels through the PA so my bass sounded full.
    TBH, I liked my SD-1 better than a Boss Bass OverDrive ODB-3 I had the chance to A/B'd. The Blend knob in the ODB-3 makes a difference in not losing low end, OFC, but the crunch was tastier when using the SD-1.

    Tech21 SansAmp BDDI:
    I guess you all know I´m a huge fan of my SansAmp, it´s been my sound since I got my first SABDDI around 2001. At first it was amazing because it made my less-than-stellar sounding Ibanez SR400 sound like a real bass (ROLF), then when I sold the Ibby and got my Mike Dirnt Pee-bass -which sounds huge and sexy-, the SansAmp became like the secret sauce that made my sound cut thru any situation.

    Since I came to Spain I've been using the Programmable version and, TBH, being able to have 3 different presets, from an almost clean sound to an almost-fuzzy distortion is amazing. I know there are all those Darkglass and modern stuff out there, but I like my SA.

    And here is my SansAmp advice (secret): Use the Blend knob around 10 O'Clock, that way your bass will sound like your bass, not masked, and you´ll have the SA flavour. :cool:
     
  5. Hoggles

    Hoggles Supporting Member Good Vibe Sponsor

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    Gentle & Filthy would be a great name for an album. Or band.

    Great write up Marco!
     
  6. PaulS

    PaulS Supporting Member Good Vibe Sponsor

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    I do not have much experience with pedals, have played straight most of my life. That being said, I did get a Darkgkass duality pedal, and I enjoy the hell out of it. I like it to beef up the solo sections of songs, since I play in an instrumental trio. Not the most usable pedal like Marco says, but fun.
    Currently thinking about a octave pedal and maybe some kind of multi effect with expression pedal.
     
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  7. zomnius

    zomnius Good Vibe Sponsor

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    Great review Marco. The sound that I seeked was the bass sound of QOTSA : Go with the flow :
    I went to Stars music Lille, France , and tried some stuff out, but the guy brng me the MXR Bass DI.. I thought, why a DI? But then hooked it on, and got my sound. [​IMG]
    I like the fact that I can switch between the original normal sound, a fattened sound an my grungy dirty sound. The sound is to my tast exactly what i wanted. The color button gives an extra option to fatten the sound. The gate is a very subtile noise gate, good if you are 'exceeding' with the treble knob ;) Last thing, but not least is that you can adjust the volume settings between each sound. very good for live performance to my opinion. (and offc you need a bass with a precision pickup at the sweetspot..)

    Here's a Vega (yes!) demo of the Bass DI : (awesome at 3:00)

     
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2017
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  8. jester

    jester ocdemon Moderator

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    The gate is amazingly useful on the M80!
     
  9. Nachobassman

    Nachobassman Bass, Tapas, and Rn´R!

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    Release the Kraken!

     
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  10. Gnermo

    Gnermo

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    Want me to come over with some OD pedals so you can expand the list Marco? :D
    I have a Ibanez PD7 and a TS10 I'm using right now, and a Wooly Mammoth fuzz.
     
  11. DiMarco

    DiMarco nutcase Good Vibe Sponsor

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    Always welcome m8!

    Darkglass Alpha-Omega

    Organic, more brutal then the B7K and very very pricey. Yet I use it all the time lately. Works well with any bass be it passive or active. It sounds more harmonically rich and more responsive then the other Darkglass pedals. Has a three band EQ and a wide array of distortion flavors by blending between the alpha and omega sides. Its general taste sits right between the b3k and vmt but it responds more to the timbre in your playing, which is lovely. If you are willing to spend the coin on this, do check it out. Awesome pedal!
     
  12. Florin

    Florin Warwick Forum Administrator Staff Member

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    I am in love with my new mac + Logic Pro X + Apogee Duet.
    Has anyone tried using it to shape the live sound? Should I give it a try? :)
     
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  13. golem

    golem Philosopher King

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    `

    Tech21 original simple version BDDI ....

    Works with just about any bass, fretted or FL,
    active or passive, played fingerstyle with flats.
    It's so reliably consistent bass-to-bass that it
    puzzles me why they upgraded to 3-channels.

    RW and or plectrum ? Ask someone else :)
    But maybe thaz what the 3-channel version is
    for .... switching from flats to rattails, fingers
    to plectrum, etc. No personal experience of it.

    I won't crazy me or you attempting to describe
    tone in words. But it does add some "weight"
    to the sound without need of boosting the low
    end. IOW, you can sound a bit louder without
    being actually louder in real Sound Pressure
    Level, especially the low frequency SPL. This
    is good for not irritating the Diva !
     
    Last edited: Jun 22, 2017
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  14. Foal30

    Foal30 Supporting Member

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    I'm going to reccomend the Wounded Paw Attack Goat Fuzz
     
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  15. Bassist4Eris

    Bassist4Eris

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    I'm currently using the Stomp Under Foot Civil Unrest for fuzz, and the Big Game Bedlam (v2) for OD and distortion.

    I figured out a long time ago that muff-style fuzzes were the only ones I like for my music; others are simply too harsh for my style (although I often like a good octave fuzz when I hear it in other people's music). The Civil Unrest is a clone of the Sovtek blue-and-gray muff, but with a mid boost knob added, which really helps it work in the mix.

    The Big Game Bedlam is based heavily on the Fulltone OCD, but retains lows better. It's mid-heavy and a bit nasal, but I like it. It sounds great as a subtle grit pedal, or cranked into full distortion territory. I like it better on passive basses, but it works OK on actives too.

    Others I've owned:

    EHX Bass Big Muff (regular and deluxe versions). I think these sound great by themselves, but they get lost in the mix.

    MXR Bass Distortion. A RAT-based distortion, this thing really cuts in the mix. It was just too aggressive for me, but would be great in a heavy band.

    Homebrew Electronics Hematoma. A bass-specific OD. Nice, but a bit too dark for my tastes.

    Voodoo Lab Sparkle Drive. This one's based on the Tube Screamer, but the clean blend helps it work better on bass. It's very subtle, but I like it. Think of it more like a preamp than an OD, though. I actually still own this one, and I could see it coming back to the board someday.
     
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  16. jester

    jester ocdemon Moderator

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    Really colorful names for the pedals right there, haha. I have a MXR M80+ for dirt, and I have this problem you mention, it gets lost in the mix and I have to crank it up louder than my normal volume or try boosting mids and/or treble. That's my only complaint with it, otherwise I dig it a lot.
     
  17. Bassist4Eris

    Bassist4Eris

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    One thing I've found is often going on in these cases is dirt tones can sound louder than they actually are. Try matching your clean and dirty signals by running them into a recording device, or anything with a level meter. When you get them matched visually, I bet you'll find that your distorted tone sounds way too loud. As best as I can tell it's some kind of audio illusion. So I think what happens is people set up their dirt pedals so they sound matched to their clean tone, and then when they step on them, they're actually losing volume, but it's not apparent until it's in the mix. I usually set my dirt pedals so they sound just a bit too loud by themselves, and then they seem to work better in the mix.

    I first discovered this in a recording studio. I thought I had my dirt nicely level-matched, but the audio engineer kept telling me I needed to turn them up. I got them to the point where they seemed deafening, and I thought he was crazy. But when I looked at the meters, I saw he was right.
     
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  18. jester

    jester ocdemon Moderator

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    So very interesting. Many thanks for the tip, I 'll try it out in our next rehearsal, match the levels by ear then check them when I get back home.
     
  19. Bassist4Eris

    Bassist4Eris

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    I was playing through a friend's Boss ODB-3 today, and was struck yet again by what an underrated overdrive it really is.
     
  20. jester

    jester ocdemon Moderator

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    You mean THIS one?



    I remember watching that vid when it was published, demo of good gear by someone who knows what he's doing.
     
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