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previous: AMZ Opinions: most over-rated effects -- 12/23/1999 3:30 AM View Thread

QWhat did you expect?

12/24/1999 7:40 PM
Mark HammerQWhat did you expect?
When asking for ratings of the sort you have asked for, the player's expectations are fundamental in determining the perceived quality of the device.  
 
So, what do players think a box will DO for them? At one level, it will get them a desired tone instantly. So, you'll note the relative absence of octave-up boxes on this list, because I suspect most users of an octaver box (unless they paid way too much for one) are happy with theirs. It gets them an octave-up tone and as long as that tone behaves itself in the expected manner, then the deal is honoured. Same goes for EQ devices, gates and compressors (although we'll probably hear some grumbling about Dynacomps and such from those who expected much more from a device they bought at vintage prices), and anything else that has a function and performs it to spec.  
 
Where you WILL get grumbling (and this thread illustrates that) is where a player expects not a function from a box, but a personality transformation. Read this as tantamount to ANY distortion unit. Not just because the personality of the player they wish to emulate is in their hands not their gear, but also because any of us here have multiple player personalities (and these also change over time), and few distortion pedals really allow one to break out from one personality into another with any ease. Quite simply, we will always be disappointed by 2 or 3-knob distortion boxes because who the box makes us sound like is not always who we are. Moreover, when we wish to emulate, what we are usually trying to emulate is something that has required careful mike placement, amp selection, and maybe even tape saturation, to produce, and that can't come in a box for $59.95...even from Musician's Friend. We've been down this route before so I won't belabour it. Suffice it to say, most responses to your question Jack will be of a common mindset: my fuzzbox let me down. And also suffice it to say that folks will generally be expected to be more vindictive about boutique versions of boxes that perform single functions very well. They may do a great job, but they still hem you in.  
 
I suspect any list generated would be more valid AND useful if it was "most exasperating pedals". This list would include all those pedals that show promise, but are hemmed into a few narrow-function tones because someone wanted to save a couple of yen, pence, pfennigs, or rubles on knobs, pots, switches, jacks, or chassis. Take, for example, virtually ANY E-H box with a single knob and a slide-switch. They are ALL capable of decent sounds, and even more sounds than stock issue, but Mike kept controls to a minimum for cost purposes. Same goes for MXR stuff. *ALL* of these pedals drive me nuts because you have to play the way THEY want you to. I figure if it's my nickel, I should call the shots.  
 
In fairness, your average Saturday morning music store drone probably can't handle more than a couple of functions, although things have picked up in the last 10 years. To whit, DOD used to have about 2 knobs per box, and generally have about 4 now (although whoever thinks up the "cute" substitutes for traditional functions like drive, gain, treble, bass, volume, etc. should be severely punished).  
 
But there are other things that constantly surprise me. Here's one. How long have analog delay lines been around? 23-25 years? What has been the single most salient characteristic in determining the tonal quality of a given commercial product, other than delay range? Filtering. Bloody low-pass filtering. Would it have killed anyone to stick a dual-ganged pot or even a crummy DPDT switch in to select between 2 different low-pass cutoffs for the delay portion? Apparently, because I can't think of anyone outside of Danelectro who has done this in a floor box, and they didn't even do it on an analog unit. Industry people will probably say that they struck a compromise and didn't want to inundate the consumer with too many choices. First, thanks for the compliment, industry folks. Second, funny thing about idiots. They get brighter when you show them how things work and explain it properly and clearly. Apparently this task is too difficult when it comes to making money. Or maybe the translation costs would have eaten up the profit margin.  
 
So, in sum, I bounce back the question to you and others here: What would you describe as your most exasperating experience with a stock effect? That is, it came so close to delivering, but it couldn't do this, couldn't do enough of that, wouldn't let you switch or select the other. I'm talking stuff that could have retained ALL of its design characteristics, and would have been far more usable with a few extra touches. To illustrate, consider the conversion of the Q-Tron to the Q-Tron+. Just a few things and bingo, way more playable and experiment-worthy.

 
Replies:
AMZ Analog Lives! -- 12/24/1999 9:52 PM
nic Re: QWhat did you expect? -- 12/24/1999 10:15 PM
JR I do like what voodoo labs has bee... -- 12/25/1999 5:57 AM
Jim S. Underneath the TS-808/TS-9 series o... -- 12/30/1999 12:31 AM