The home of Sweaty Spice, the 'other' Spice Girl

As I increase my time playing guitar again (and frankly grooving on the new amp) I am once again looking into how to improve my sound.

I have written about how early in your time of playing, you are looking to copy the sound of those you love. You buy amplifiers, effects pedals, and you string them together to get a sound. Then one day, you realize that you have found your sound. It was in you all along.

But, I am learning that doesn’t mean you don’t want to alter your sound. There is a wide range of signal processors. Delays, reverbs, chorus, flangers, compressors, overdrive, and many many more.

Early, I had a Digitech Programmable Distortion pedal, and it was my go to. I played it through a mediocre Crate solid state practice amp, and I used it plugged directly into an audio system at my guitar teacher’s house. It worked well, but boy, did it eat batteries.

The Digitech PDS 1550
The Digitech PDS 1550

I also had a Boss Digital Delay “DD3” that cost me north of $300 brand new, and offered a whopping 800ms of delay (that is 8/10’s of a second) that was fun to goof around with. It never became part of my sound, but was a novelty that I sold early on.

Not long after this I bought an amp with a killer crunch-y tone that gave me that 80’s heavy metal tone that I so loved, and the pedals were retired.

In the early 2000’s, when the power and versatility of DSP based digital effects was becoming common, and very affordable, I splurged on a Line6 PodXT, the “bean”. Technically, this was the start of the “multi effects” where you can string 2, or more effects on top of each other, and thus replacing two or more pedals with one processor. The benefits are manifold. Each 1/4” jack connection adds some noise, and unless you want to go broke buying batteries, you want AC adaptors for each pedal, and - you guessed it - more potential sources of noise in the signal path. Additionally, they are often MIDI compatible, and can be connected to your computer to build custom presets.

The PodXT
The PodXT

Why am I dredging this up … again?

Now that I have a solid amplifier that is suitable for my practice space, with a rather tame clean channel, I am once again thinking about how to juice up my sound. A reverb effect seems to be first on the list. I need something to liven up the sound.

And that caused me to come to a stark realization. Instead of the multi effect devices like the Pod taking over the world, there are more effect pedals than ever.

Go to GuitarCenter’s online store, and there are almost 400 reverb pedals. Yikes! How do you ever figure this shit out? Buy and return a bunch of them?

And that gets me to the second “Yikes”. Holy spitballs, effects pedals seem to be really expensive. Like $129 is the cheap version, then $169 is another price point, then a lot of highly rated models are at a mythical $199, and then there are some that go up to $350 and $450.

Christ on a crouton, that is a lotta dough for a signal effect. To get a good chain, I could easily see buying an overdrive, a chorus/flanger, a reverb/delay and then end the chain with a compressor/limiter to not blow out the amp.

That is like $1200 plus/minus.

Zoinks! Thatsa lotta dough indeed.

I thought I would check out eBay, and see if there were some lightly used pedals there. Uh, no, you can save like 10% or so going used, but with some heinous chipping fees.

First steps

I believe I will get the PodXT back in action. I seem to have lost the power brick, so I have ordered replacement from Amazon ($18). I found the manual, and I will look to see if I can find a copy of the Line6 software that lets me edit/create presets.

Once I have explored all of that, I will then consider the other options for my signal chain.

One thing is certain, I am really enjoying guitar playing again. The pain is still there, but it is no longer debilitating. With consistent practice, a lot of the skills are coming back, and the dexterity is returning as well.

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