If you like your distortion pedals you may like this article. I will give a short outline why distortion pedal where created and why some distorted amp tones still sound better than any pedal can ever do.
Before we look at the pedals we first need to look at the amps: The most common guitar amps today do have a distortion channel and a clean channel but there was a time when guitar amps only had one channel, even those vintage JTM Marshalls of the 1960s!
The need for a pedal to create somekind of overdrive was normal considering the amp could only give you clean tones. Those clean tones could be manipulated by turning the amp’s volume at max. Now what about creating a device which would actually do the same without turning the amp’s volume up? This is were the early treble boosters came into the picture. Treble boosters were the early overdrive pedals of the 1960s. The pedals did get better during the years and gave you more tonal options to create whatever you wanted, but the amps got better as well: The early amps were still single channel, and you still had to turn them up to full to get some kind of overdrive. Around 1976 Marshall added a Master volume to their amps…………………………………..
now it was possible to get distorted tones at listening level. Well not everyone agrees but from that moment onwards most amps started to come out with options of various channels to create different amp tone at a much lower volume level.
Okay now back to the pedals: Most amps today are more sophisticated than the ones guitar players used in the early 1960s, so why actually bother with a distortion pedal? Good question. The obvious answer is: The pedal may produce a distorted sound which augments the sound of the amp or………….it may produce a sound which makes the amp sound worse.
To check how well your distortion pedals work with your amp do this little test for yourself: Check any distortion pedal you like through your amp, see how tight the distortion is compared to the distortion of your amp. Dial in as many variations of distortion your amp has and listen. Now do the same with your pedals. What you will find is: A typical pedal may sound weaker and less tigtht compared to the sound of the amp on its own.
When you do this test, try the same but now with a different kind of amp. Similar results? Probably not, so keep those pedals as some do sound great with a particular amp, while others do not.
For next blog: Which distortion pedal sounds good through Marshall JCM 900 SL-X
Hope to see you soon again,