Rig-O-Tone-y or More Hybrid Tone Approaches

When Gear Acquisition Syndrome is fuel for the fire

After my last post on using the Torpedo Cab and the Nady TD-1 in conjunction with the POD HD500X, I thought I’d talk a little bit more about the configuration I’m currently using and then A/B the approaches for you.

The TD might stand for “Terrible Design”

I had done a substantial amount of research for a BIAS review for Guitar-Muse that may or may not be see the light of day and in researching all aspects of the tube pre-amp, rediscovered the 12AU7.


This tube is a direct replacement for a 12AXA7 but has some different tonal characteristics and offers less gain.  On a recent trip to Drome Sound, I found a NOS Groove Tubes 12AU7 for $10 and decided to swap it out in my Nady TD-1.  The TD-1 is a cool pedal in terms of tone, and a terrible housing design as replacing the tube requires completely dismantling the casing.

As a first step, you’ll need 3 tools to do this.

ToolsOn my first dismantling attempt, I realized that I didn’t have a star shaped driver to undo the sides of the casing.  It seemed cruel for Nady to not simply use philips head screws but a quick trip to Radio Shack got me the driver I needed (with some other attachments) and soon I had this.

Nady Pedal DisassembleThere are 36 parts holding the casing together.  You need to remove all 36 to get the tube out (a Chinese made 12AX7B in this case).

Pedal Interior

You’ll also notice that you don’t have a lot of wiggle room to extract the tube.  The photo above shows the replaced GT in the socket.

The A/B Rig

First off.  I had a strange experience with my hybrid solution at the last gig I played.  Soundcheck went fine and then live when I switched to my lead patch the volume dropped by 70% or more.  I had to full crank my QSC K-8 (which I’ve never had to turn past 10 o’clock [the off position starts at 6 o’clock]) to be heard.  I assumed it was a cable or a bad connection but checking the cables after the gig, they were all fine.  Line 6 just released a new Firmware update to deal with volume drops with that occurred when switching patches with specific configurations and I guess mine was one of them as it seems to be working now.

I started the process this weekend of porting all of my patches from the HD-500 over to the 500-X (and trying to recreate some of my POD Farm patches there as well) and thought I’d give you an A/B example of the dual rig.

This was one of my old POD patches that I liked.
Dual 800It was a great dirty rhythm sound but the leads were hit and miss.  I put a FX loop in with a 6 DB increase and used it as a boost for solos.

In contrast, here’s my current configuration.  The tube screamer is gone and replaced by the TD-1.

J800 + J45_1The TD is also the first step of my signal chain so I use that for the lead boost.  Here are the amps:

800 + 45_2You may notice that the cab models are turned off.  The FX loop now goes out to the Torpedo for the cab simulation.

So this means that I have 2 extra things plugged in with my POD.  Which is way more of a pain than simply using the POD direct.  But does it make a difference?

Well the tones are completely different but here’s the A/B.  I’m just improvising some D major patterns over a D5 chord.

Recorded the TD/Torpedo is more saturated, but the biggest difference is live.  When played through my QSC, the second tone has substantially increased presence in the room.  I don’t know how to describe it but seems to jump out more from the speaker.  There’s also a little hiss from the pedal, but I can live with it in a live context.

Wait there’s a third option?

Having said all of that I took advantage of a recent cancelled rehearsal I showed up to to put my Positive Grid Jam Up App through the paces.  I can work with it at home but it’s a different context to put it through an amp on a stage in a large hall and see what happens and I have to say – I was pretty blown away.

I’m going to be doing live accompaniment for a production of The Exonerated at the BuckMoon Arts Festival in July and currently it looks like I’ll just be bringing my iphone, a laptop for some synths and looping and a powered speaker.  It doesn’t have the flexibility that the POD set up does, but for situations where I just need a decent clean/dirty tone – it gets the job done and then some.

More tone reports as the summer progresses – but hopefully this is useful to some of you.

As always, thanks for reading!


Rig-O-Lution Or More Notes From The Trenches Of Tone

The Siren’s Song Of Old School

More and more, I get players who stick with un-amplified acoustic guitar for performance.  Mind you, playing acoustic guitar and really articulating every note can a BEAR, but it’s such a dynamic instrument that gives you back exactly what you put into it.  There’s something really satisfying about strumming a chord on an acoustic and just having it decay naturally.

However, this isn’t about the easy solution. ; )

A Tale of Two Gigs

A while back – I talked about how I had taken my POD HD500 out for a show and was really surprised by how well the tones went across.  Basically I had 2 dirty and 2 clean tones (Really one dirty and one clean with a slight variation) – and running that out into the hall with a single QSC K-8 speaker.

After the latest Variax debacle, I decided to upgrade to the POD HD500X and, as I understood it, the only real difference was an upgrade in switches, and more memory so my tones would remain exactly the same.

But a funny thing happened.  I played another gig – with the same group and in the same hall, and this time a PA was set up.  So I ran a stereo pair to the house through the XLR outs and also ran a line out to my QSC K-8.

And I wasn’t digging my tone.

It was really shrill and strange and I was fighting it (along with the looper which was acting a little glitchy as well) for the duration of the evening.  I was able to limp through the gig but I wasn’t psyched.

So I went back to the drawing board.

Whatever happened to that Laptop Guitar Rig?

Several of you may remember a NUMBER of posts about my laptop rig (Just check the Blueprints page for the Laptop Guitar Rig section).  Funny thing about that.  My laptop got really out of date.

Enough so that running any kind of intensive audio software on it required disc repairs, defragging and obscure incantations.

Gradually, my system wouldn’t support the newer versions of AU LAB, and my software wouldn’t run on the updates I had.

I still use it for sound sculpture, but it’s been a little too glitchy to run live.  But one idea that I had there (running a signal out to a impulse response for a more 3-D tone) was one that still appealed to me as it seemed like I couldn’t get a tone out of the cabs without MAJOR EQ tweaking that worked for me.  Also, I liked a few of the distortions but I also felt limited with the models there.  So I started looking into solutions outside the POD.

DAMN!!!  The Torpedo!  Full Speed Ahead!

Here’s the first part of the solution.  A local music shop had a used version of a Two Notes Torpedo C.A.B. for sale for about 1/2 the street price.  After sitting on that for a while (and seeing it sit around on the shelf desperately looking for an owner) I offered them $20 less than the asking price and brought it home.


Photo Taken From TWO NOTES Web Site.

The Torpedo Cab is basically a speaker cabinet simulator that acts as an Impulse Response (IR) loader in a stompbox format.  It doesn’t have any load box capabilities so you can’t use it directly with your JCM 800 speaker out (they do make gear you can run right out of a power amp into) – but it offers substantial tonal flexibility.  In addition to using their own format (which allows for virtual mic placement and different cab and mic options) you can also use a simulated power amp and EQ which is accessible through either the pedal screen or through the free Torpedo Remote software.

This is a GREAT pedal!!  It’s super solid and offers a lot of great tones on the fly.  Out of the box, there were some decent cabs and mics – but I wasn’t getting them to sound the way that I wanted them to.  Fortunately, Two Notes BlendIR came to the rescue.


BlendIR is a free app that allows you to load multiple IRs and mix them down to a single file that can be read by the Torpedo CAB.

Blend IR

This is a big deal, because if you want to mix the sound of say a room mike, a close mic and a mid distance mike in the proprietary format, you’re out of luck as it only supports one mic at a time.  In my case I had a bunch of REALLY GREAT Marshall IRs that I was able to download for free from RED WIREZ (http://www.redwirez.com/).  In the example above, I mixed multiple IRs to create a stacked sound I was looking for.

That Distortion

Also, I was obsessing about distortion a little bit and thinking a lot about how much I dug some of Shawn Lane’s dirty tones.  Part of his sound started from front loading a solid-state Holmes Mississippi Bluesmaster Amp with a Westbury Tube Overdrive (later the Holmes was replaced with a Peavey Pro-Fex that Peavey had modded for him).  There’s a thread with some REALLY interesting insights on his tone here (about 1/2 way down the page).

Westbury was bought out by NADY, and NADY’s TD-1 is the updated version of it. 

Nady TD-1 fron Nady Website

Nady TD-1 fron Nady Website

Nady released several versions of the pedal.  The original just had an on/off switch with Gain and Level controls.  The current version features 3 different levels of drive, and an EQ section.  I do like some of the Line 6 distortion pedals, but they haven’t modeled enough of them for my taste, so I wanted to experiment with this.  

A sale on Amazon had one shipped to me for under $100.  

The Pluses:

  • It’s a REALLY sturdy pedal
  • it’s relatively quiet
  • it has tremendous tonal variance

The Minuses:

The power connector is funky.

(I only mention this as making it a part of a pedal board will require more than a pedal power supply.)

While you can get high gain tones from it, I think it works best as on the low-mid gain settings – and it works great there.

The Line 6 Story I Can’t Find Now.

Somewhere in my jumble of posts is a brief anecdote about the time I met with Rich Renken when he was working at Line 6.  Rich had a great story about the (much maligned) Marshall cabinet that was modeled.  There were a number of people online who hated the Marshall cabinet that Line 6 had in the POD saying it sounded nothing like a Marshall.

What Rich said was funny about that was Line 6 tested a NUMBER of Marshall cabinets until they found the cabinet that everyone agreed had THE Marshall sound.  That cabinet was modeled and they then A/B’d the sound of the amplified cabinet with the sound of the model and everyone there said it sounded identical.  End users were brought in and they also couldn’t tell the difference.  The guys at Line 6 assumed they hit a home run.

But the thing is that it’s all about context.  That Marshall cab that Line 6 modeled may have sounded exactly like that cabinet miked up in a studio environment – but that same tone might not work at all in someone’s headphone mix.  The tone you hear on a mastered recording is sometimes radically different than what you’d hear coming out of the cone.

So, I don’t think that the Marshall sound is awful, but I don’t think it fully works in the context that I’m trying to use my sounds in.  And that’s what’s prompting the current signal chain.

Signal Chain

The signal chain is FnH guitar –>Nady TD1 –> POD HD500X.  The Nady is only used for a solo tone.

In the 500X – The FX send goes to the Torpedo CAB back into the unit.

From the 500x – I use the XLR outs for the house and run a line out to my QSC K-8 (either for monitoring OR for live sound if there’s no PA).

Here’s The Signal Path Of The Dirty Rhythm Sound I’m Currently Using

Rhythm 1

Basically what I’ve done here is try to combine the best of both worlds.  Amp A runs to the Torpedo for the cabinet sound and I’ve blended that with Amp B for the modeled cab.  Some people use the Pre-Amp versions of these amps to save on DSP, but I find that the deeper amp controls like SAG play a big role in the feel of the amps.  Amp B does have some additional EQ thrown on it to boos the cab sound a bit  and amp A had bit of slap back delay.  Both signals are then mixed (around 30% in the left channel for A and 30% in the right channel for B) and run through a common reverb for continuity.

Here’s the basic lead tone.

Lead 1

This is essentially the same as the rhythm tone, but I’ve removed the Tube Screamer and addd a volume and wah.   I think the modeled Tube Screamer works well with the modeled amps (it sounds great when you roll off the volume a bit rhythm) – but it just didn’t have the lead sound I was looking for.

Even at lower levels, the NADY does introduce noise, and the Line 6 gate I’m using needs a lot of tweaking.  There’s some digital dirt on the end of notes as they decay – so I find that the NADY is causing me to ride both Tone and Volume controls on the FnH more than before.  (In other words it’s forcing me to be more expressive and thus more musical).  Gain staging was a bit of an issue with the FX loop as well and it took a couple of passes to tame some sound issues there as well).

Live Versus Phone (or Phones Home)

One GREAT thing about using the QSC K-8 is that it gives me a pretty accurate picture of  what my tones sound like through a PA.  I like the Atomic amps I was using before a great deal, but they weren’t accurate at all for live sound, and having to mike one for the room, was completely counter to the point of running a modeler.

I’ve talked about this in other posts as well – but it’s still amusing to me just HOW different those tonal requirements are.  Even after getting it close to dialed in on my phones, I had to use a different IR for the K-8.

I’m not posting any tones now, because this is still very much a work in progress – but I’ll have something up relatively soon (hopefully a live clip!)  The word of the day here is EXPERIMENT.  That’s the truth of it.  Plugging a box into the front of a POD may get you something out of the unit you weren’t getting before.

For now, I think I’m going to see a lot more of hybrid rig configurations in my future until digital technology fully catches up – but rest assured it’s catching up and while the all in one solution is already here for many players, I anticipate that even players like me that need some old school feel and flavor will see an all in one digital solution within the next 5-10 years (if not sooner – I’m pretty knocked out by the Positive Grid software – look for some words on that soon!)  The future is not only coming, for the most part it’s already here.

Okay!  Enough rambling for one day.  As always thanks for reading!