#CoffeeAndKlon 3: Why I Stack Pedals

This conversation was originally posted to my Twitter feed.

For this week’s #CoffeeAndKlon I want to talk about what got me into Klons and Klones in the first place. Because I don’t have a klone on my practice rig atm.

This week, I’ve gone back to the two pedals that give me *my* sound: the Blue Brit into the Sweet Honey Overdrive. For me, this is home.

What do I mean by ‘my sound’? There’s just something about it that, when my friends hear it, they say it’s the sound they imagine me using. I hope that makes sense?

It’s an almost-fuzz, into something that maybe sounds like a small vintage American amp, into something that’s pretending Marshall’s history started one amp earlier, into a speaker mostly used for AC30s.

And that’s the point of this week’s musings.

If you go straight into a plexi amp, you’re going to sound like everyone who’s ever gone straight into a plexi. It’s an awesome sound. It’s also one that everyone’s heard many, many times.

Same goes if you’re using a single drive pedal into a clean amp. There’s not much variety in any one pedal. Most of their controls are about dialling in the pedal for the guitar and amp.

When you start stacking pedals together, that’s where you can get different tones. How much of a difference depends a lot on which pedals you pair up.

Some pedals won’t stack at all, for various reasons. I’ll try and remember to cover those another time. Are they bad pedals? No. You’ve just got to embrace them for the tone they give.

Some pedals are engineered to ensure they stack well. That’s one reason why I’m a huge fan of Mad Professor pedals, the Bearfoot FX pedals – basically anything designed by BJFe.

So how does pedal stacking work? Are there any hard and fast rules? Honestly, I don’t know. What I can do is describe how these two pedals are interacting atm, to my ears at least.

But first, I need 2nd coffee 🙂 That’s better 🙂

What I’m hearing is ‘foundation’ and ‘shaping’. The dirt is coming from the Sweet Honey Overdrive. It’s providing the main characteristics of the tone. The foundation, if you like.

On its own, it sounds very good. It’s clear, articulate. Just a great – one of the greatest – low gain pedals ever designed. I’ll compare it the the Honey Bee another time 🙂

Now, on its own, in the room, you could say it sounds a little thin. When I’ve recorded this pedal, I’ve found I’ve had to double-track it to give it the weight it really needs. That’s where the other pedal comes in.

The Brit Blue, from MP Audio of Australia, is superb at adding weight to a guitar tone. In front of the SHOD, it really fattens things up. It shapes the tone through the frequencies that it boosts.

I’m not deliberately boosting the signal into the SHOD. I’m not after more dirt from the SHOD. The Blue Brit might be adding a touch of drive itself. Like a Klon, it comes alive when the drive control is above a certain threshold.

The end result? I’ve still got all the dynamics and articulation that I love about the SHOD, just fatter and decidedly chewy. And slightly softer.

The first pedal in a stack – the Brit Blue in this case – isn’t limited to shaping the EQ. It can also shape the attack of each note too. The BB is definitely taking the sharpness away when I strike a note – when stacked into the SHOD. How much of it is the BB alone, and how much of it is the pairing, I can’t say. I don’t know how to measure that either way.

What I can say is that I like the result. A lot 🙂

I hope I’ve encouraged you to explore stacking drive pedals like this for yourself. The Klon might be the most hyped pedal for this – because it can be amazing at this – but don’t limit yourself to just klones.

There are other pedals that do it amazingly well too, and will give you something different from everyone who has jumped on the Klon hype train. And if you’re a straight-into-the-amp player … you carry on doing you. It’s all good 🙂

#CoffeeAndKlon 2: Before We Had Klones

This conversation was originally posted to my Twitter feed.

Good morning! I thought I’d do another #CoffeeAndKlon today This week, complete with authentic rat’s nest wiring!

But first – coffee 🙂 Nothing happens here on a morning until there’s coffee.

Quickly, what’s with the terrible wiring in that first photo?

Turns out the Pedaltrain Nano+ is just too long to fit on a standard-size 19” rack shelf. And I need the extra depth of a rack shelf to fit the power supply and patch bay I’m using.

So, right now, I’ve got nowhere to route the power cables – hence the rat’s nest of wiring. Wiring like this will probably make my rig noisy. That’s why it’s terrible.

Any ideas on what might fit into this space and give me elevation to route the power cables, let me know.

So, this week … there’s no Klon on my practice / gear test setup. It might seem incredible today, but it wasn’t all that long ago when there were no klones, and we had to use other pedals in that clean boost / colour role. I want to talk about that today.

We’ve had the Klon KTR (I love it, many do not) and klones for what – 6 years or so now? Before that, there were Klon Centaurs and some klones that utter amateurs like me didn’t know about. And boost pedals. We’ve had boost pedals for decades.

Remind me, and I’ll feature some popular boost pedals in the future.

What does a boost actually do? There’s three key aspects, for me:

  1. a volume boost
  2. an EQ change
  3. without adding dirt

Any pedal that does all three can be used as a boost.

There’s no written rule that says you can only use pedals that are made and marketed as boost pedals. Look at the Tubescreamer. It’s a drive pedal. But someone figured out that you can put it in front of a JCM800 to boost that amp into 80s rock heaven.

Before the Klon KTR, my boost pedal of choice wasn’t a boost pedal at all. It was a compressor. Mad Professor’s Forest Green Overdrive. And that’s what’s on the shelf this morning, on the far right of this photo.

I honestly couldn’t tell you what colour it’s adding, just that (to my ears) it does add something. Some of that will be down to using it to boost the volume. As sounds get louder, we hear them differently.

A Klon can make pretty much any pedal sound better. Some pedals – like this Bluebird Overdrive – sound better when boosted with the Forest Green instead, imho.

As Klon inventor Bill Finnegan himself says, the hype around the Klon is ridiculous. Klons (and many klones) are great. Other pedals can be great boost pedals too. Inc ones that aren’t sold as boost pedals.

I hope I’m encouraging you to experiment.

What non-boost pedals do you use for boosting your main dirt pedal or your amp? I’d love to learn more about what you’re using 🙂

#CoffeeAndKlon 1: The TC Electronic Mojomojo

This conversation was originally posted on my Twitter feed.

Good morning, and welcome to #CoffeeAndKlon. Starting off with this question from last night: can the Klon make the Mojomojo sound any good? (PS I’ve dusted the Klon for y’all this morning)

The Mojomojo isn’t a ridiculous pedal like the Metal Zone or Digital Metalizer are. (See last night’s thread for context). It’s probably the worst drive pedal I’ve got to hand right now.

Can the mighty Klon help it out?

(It’s not just my opinion. When I posted my Take The Plexi Challenge a year ago, the clip recorded using the Mojomojo was everyone’s least favourite tone.)

So what makes the Mojomojo what it is? If you could build a drive circuit out of a marshmallow, it would sound like a Mojomojo. It’s just the softest-sounding drive pedal I’ve come across.

That’s my only criticism against it. Otherwise, it sounds perfectly fine. Decent amount of frequency range, decent dynamics, good strong separation. 30 years ago, I’d have been delighted if this had been the worst pedal any of us had.

So, now I’ve finished my coffee, the question is: can a Klon make this pedal sound better?

A quick break for 2nd coffee 🙂 Almost feel human and functional now.

The Klon delivers a bit of a mid-boost. It’s one of the ways that the Klon helps lift a guitar out of the mix a bit – and why it’s such a desirable pedal. That should help bring out the character of the Mojomojo a bit.

The trick with a Klon – imho – is that it doesn’t do anything interesting at unity volume or below. The magic happens when you’re using it as a boost.

Not all pedals react well to a boosted input signal.

The Klon also has an active treble control. I can nudge that up bit by bit to add some bite to the final sound. So does the Mojomojo. There’s a little less noise if I turn the Klon’s treble up a bit, and the Mojomojo’s up to 3 o’clock.

The overall result is to turn the Mojomojo into a marshmallow with a bit more bite. It still doesn’t crunch, but it’s got much more life to it now. It can definitely growl now – and that’s a sound I can make use of.

To finish off, I’m going to switch out the Klon for one of the JRAD Archer klones. Curious to hear how that does.

I grabbed the white Archer. To my ears, it does not do what my Klon does. There’s a perceived loss of bass. Not what I want for noodling at home. In a mix, this might be a good thing.

That’s it for coffee and Klon this morning. If you enjoyed it, please do let me know.

What should I boost with a Klon in the future?