I’ve been experimenting with guitar effects pedals a lot lately. I took the occasion of buying a tube screamer as an excuse to pull all my guitar gear out of the storage box and link it all up. I’ve been playing around with my Delta Lab Tube Overdrive quite a bit and I have to say that by far it gives me the most control over my sound out of all of my pedals. Between the Telecaster and the Les Paul, I can dial in the sound of about 90% of all classic rock songs with it plugged between the guitar and my Valve Junior. I’m a bit in love with it, and wish I’d bought one a year ago instead of mucking about these other pedals.
Worth mention is my BBE Freq Boost, or Frequency Boost, is a treble boost pedal that is pretty much always left on. It makes a great second gain stage for my Tube Overdrive and adds in some additional harmonics. Musician’s Friend had them on sale for something like $30 about a year ago, and well I couldn’t pass that up. It basically makes your guitar sound better.
By my count I have four pedals that provide some sort of distortion. The Holy Stain was the first one I bought, naively thinking I could somehow use a distortion pedal that was lacking a gain knob. It’s been relegated to reverb duty. I’m actively looking to replace it with a better reverb pedal. It has tremolo and pitch shift features as well, but all in all it’s just not that great a pedal. The Freq Boost has some wacky harmonics and mild clipping that occurs, like a very timid tube screamer set on low. Then there’s the Delta Lab Tube Overdrive, which I’m falling in love with. The last one is one I built myself from kit, the Great Wall distortion pedal.
I’ve had sort of a love/hate relationship with the Great Wall. With five knobs and an independent, toggleable tone circuit , it’s a difficult beast to tame. Add in the fact that it has no low pass filter and it’s easy to see how you can get discouraged with it pretty quickly. If it makes any sense, it’s sort of like trying to find the sweet spot on a tremolo pedal that doesn’t have a manual. Well I’ve started picking up the Great Wall again, and I’m beginning to zero in on where the “sweet spot” is for the combination of 5 knobs and tone circuit. With such a wide range of gain available, it’s easy to sweep right through the usable portion of the pedal. This is exacerbated by not paying closer attention to the trim pot. I was considering getting an equalizer pedal to smooth this out, but being more gentle with the gain and trim has yielded satisfactory results. If you’re careful, you can wrangle out a passable Big Muff sound, while still having a lot more versatility.