• How to use your amp’s loop channel

    I get a lot of questions about how to use the loop channel or send/return connections featured on the back panel on most amps. This feature allows you to place one or more effects after the amp’s internal gain stage, – usually modulations (chorus, flanger, phaser) and delays.

    If these pedals are connected into the front input when you use the gain stage for overdrive and distortions you’ll often get a muddy tone with distorted delays and uncontrollable feedback. Keep in mind though that unless your amp has two or more channels you will always use the gain stage (preamp) but for David’s tones this should be set as clean as possible without the tubes distorting.

    David’s tones are based on a pristine clean amp with lots of headroom and punch. All overdrives, fuzz and distortions are produced with pedals. This means that the loop is quite redundant since the modulations and delays will be placed after the gains anyway. You could of course use the loop but the feature is often cursed with volume drops and noise that becomes even more evident on clean amps.

    As a rule I recommend to always set your amp as clean as possible with all the pedals connected into the front input. This setup seems to work on most amps: bass 50%, treble 50-60%, mids 40%, presence 50-60% and the master should be set to about 1/3 of the channel/main volume.

    That being said… The loop can be useful if you’re amp doesn’t have the needed headroom. Smaller practice amps can be hard to tame and adding high gain pedals like Big Muffs and fuzz may sound quite the opposite of what you intended. In this case I strongly recommend that you use the loop – if your amp has one – and utilize the amp’s gain stage for your lead tones. This may not be as fun as having a Big Muff in your set up but in most cases you’ll end up with a much better tone.

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65 Responsesso far.

  1. Dave says:

    Hi Bjorn

    I’m thinking of getting a boost to put in my fx loop for soloing during gigs, because my rhythm tone is already quite distorted and when i put a boost in front of my amp it just gives me more distortion, which I don’t want. Anyway my question is, is there a specific boost pedal that you can recommend that would perform well in my loop? Or even if you can just give me pointers as to what things to look for (e.g high voltage, input impedance, mosfet vs opamp etc). Thanks!

    • Dave says:

      Should also specify that I’m getting my distortion from the amp, not pedals. Cheers

    • Bjorn says:

      I’m not expert on this and as you probably know, the loop channel and its function may different on different brands or types of amps. You should look that up in your manual. As I’m sure you know as well, placing a booster in the loop will boost the output stage. Placing a booster into the front end of your amp, will boost the pre stage, which will, as you point out, only add to the gain. Boosting the output stage, will often create a bigger and perhaps slightly smoother or darker character. I’ve often used a Powerbooster. It’s very transparent, has little compression and you can easily dial in the amount of gain and EQ that you need. The TC Spark Booster is similar although not as dynamic in my opinion. I wouldn’t use anything too compressed or mid rangy, like a Klon or Tube Screamer.

  2. Hey

    I am using my fx loop because I also want the sound of the dist amp (dsl40c).
    I conect the modulation effects , delay and reverb to the fx loop and the other overdrive , fuzz and compresor to the front of the amp and I got a really noisy sound.
    My question is how can I fix that?
    Do I need noise gate?
    Thank you.

    • Bjorn says:

      Depends on what kind of noise you are experiencing and what the source is. First off I would say that the amp has a lot of mid range compression, which will create less headroom for your pedals and therefore more gain and noise. I haven’t tried the loop on the DSL so I can’t tell whether it is noisy or not… some loops are very noisy. Try to roll back the gain on your pedals and also try to set the amp up with as little breakup as possible.

      • Scott says:

        Hi! Great site, Bjorn. Getting ready to see Waters in Ottawa in a couple weeks! תום מאירי, I have a DSL40c and it’s a fantastic amp, but probably not well suited for a Gilmourish setup. The loop is very good, and not noisy at all. You appear to be using the loop correctly here. There may be a few reasons for the noise. In my home, the mains are not designed well and I get a hum that changes with the direction the guitar is pointing. Not much you can do about this. Compressors can be difficult to work with. If you have a single coil guitar, with high compression, and then high gain afterward, that can be a recipe for disaster. Any time you’re not playing, all the hiss gets amplified. To fix that, I use a Boss NS2. It’s a fantastic unit where you go from the guitar to the NS2 input, then out to your gain stages (even your amp preamp), then back to the NS2. From there it goes out to your mod boxes and the power amp. It uses your raw guitar input to control the gating after all the gain is introduced. It’s not expensive and works beautifully. Experiment with placing your compressor before and after the NS2, as it will behave differently.
        Cheers
        Scott.

    • Arya Boustani says:

      IMHO, it means that your preamp is too noisy and it magnifies when you go through the amplification of each stage. If the first stage valve is too hot, it escalates the noise quite a bit and then it goes through the second stage amplification which makes it worse. So even before you get to the effects loop (at the end of the pre-amplification) you already have a lot of noise build-up. So if you reduce the volume in pre-amp both from the input potentiometer (usually feeding V1 / V2) and increase the master (usually output potentiometer feeding the power stage) and also change the pre-amp valves to a quieter and less output kind for instance change it from 12AX7 to 12AY7 or equivalent (especially V1), you can tackle the noise right there, and if you need quieter situation, you put a noise gate before your delay in the FX loop. If the noise is too high, noise gate sounds ugly especially if you have softer picking phrases in your song. It only works well if you bring the noise down with better pedals, cables, pickup treatment, room power conditioning, pick a spot in the room with less electromagnetic interference (EMI), position your standing orientation to have minimal pickup EMI (turn around to find the least EMI noise spot), and stand farther from your amp. Your pedals may also pick the EMI from the power cables and other pedals around them. Go really lean (no pedal) and start to add the pedals one at a time to find out how your noise gets to be out of control. Not only the pre-amp valves have impact on the noise, but also the power amp valves too. I had a pair of EL-34 valves that were meant to give that in-the-face sound but I changed them to something more linear and natural sounding and they are more quiet too. One reason that the distorted noisy amp character creates is the limitation in shaping the sound. If you have a quiet clean sound in your amp, you can build up your tone in your pedals so you have the whole range of all quiet and clean to fully distorted and insane. Good luck.

  3. Howard forton says:

    Do you ever use your laney cub fx loop. My flashback x4 doesn’t sound good straight into my cub so iam going to try it in the loop. Others delays do sound ok like the Moer repeater. Odd isn’t it??

    • Bjorn says:

      I haven’t tried using a Flashback in the loop but have you experimented with true bypass VS buffered? There are sliders inside the pedal that allow for these two options. For long cables and many pedals, I would set these to buffered. Maybe that will help.

  4. David Du says:

    Hi, Bjorn
    I read lot of time on this site, about how to setup the amp:”…and the master should be set to about 1/3 of the channel/main volume…”, I still confused with this set, that the master is set lower than the channel volume, to my amp, I just have “Gain” and “Volume”, does that mean I should set the volume about 1/3 of the gain?
    Thanks

    David

    • Bjorn says:

      Depends on what sort of amp you have. A Hiwatt, which is what David’s often using, should be set with the master at about 1/3 of the channel volume to get his slightly breaking up tones. Other amps might need a very different setup, based on how the channels and master works. What do you want, for David’s tones, is the amp to be at the very edge of break up. It should be clean but hot enough for the pedals to sound smooth.

  5. Henryk says:

    Hi Bjorn,
    I wonder if I have a Fender amp with a bright switch, should I engage it on clean channel for David G. sound?
    Thank you,
    Henryk

    • Bjorn says:

      Try it and hear how that fits your pickups and pedals :) Since you’re using a Fender, which is a brighter amp, what you want is more mids. Not necessarily more high end :)

      • Henryk Chrostek says:

        Thank you Bjron. That’s what I thought. My Strat is pretty bright so it sounds warmer when the Bright switch is off in the amp. I got my B.K. Butler on Thursday. Unfortunately the jack IN is not working properly. I may be able to fix it with some tools or I may have to replace it. Also, I got another interesting pedal that is kind of similar to Butler, it’s Jetter Gain Stage Blue, I wonder if you are familiar with this one.

  6. Arya Boustani says:

    Hi Bjorn,
    Thanks for the thorough review as always. I have a Carvin XV-212 100W tube amp. There is no additional input for bright. I just pull the rhythm channel that is the clean channel to make it bright but it becomes too bright so I leave it off (In instead of out). The treble is so piercing in 1.5K to 3K frequency that I can only bring it up to 2 or 3 (out of 10). I can push the presence up to 9 that brings some of the 4K and above frequencies out which is nice for sparkle. I adjust things when I monitor it through SM57 and the sound board since my objective is to create a scenario to be good for practice and also recording. I use bass on 5.5 and mids on 4.5 out of 10. Volume on 3. There is no normal (gain) adjustment on the clean channel. The drive channel has a gain and master volume adjustment but as you recommended for Gilmour tone I only use clean channel. I found out that although the drive channel helps to get thicker mid range harmonics but I loose the high frequency sparkle that is part of the character of the sound so I avoid it and try to build the tone prior to the amp.
    My signal path is Boss CS2>TC Electronic Nova Drive NDR-1>Big Muff Russian big black box>Wampler Plexidrive>Boss CE2>Boss DD-20>amp.
    NDR-1 allows mixing the input signal with processed signal and it’s good to have attack of the string present for some settings. I use EMG-DG20 on a strat copy with rosewood neck. I’m wondering if maple neck of a certain model makes a big difference. Right now I get a too fat sound from EMG-DG20 to my Plexidrive if I bypass NDR-1 but with tone control and right amount of drive setting I can create a more focused mid rang-ish tone and complement it with a bit of original signal with the mix knob. This way it sounds lively while not gritty driven sound through the Plexidrive to the amp. Do you think Big Muff can benefit from Plexidrive? I found when I moved Plexidrive to upstream of Big Muff, Plexidrive makes a synergy with NDR-1 and I get better details of the tone character (while Big Muff is in bypass). If I can shape the Big Muff sound by having Plexidrive upstream, I leave it like that. I should give it a try today.
    Thanks again for all the knowledge you are disseminating to the guitarist community and the Gilmour sound lovers :)
    Arya

    • Bjorn says:

      I’m not familiar with the Carvin amp and settings are so subjective and individual but in terms of David’s tones I would say that mid range is crucial. His Hiwatts have plenty of it and that really makes the pedal sound smoother and the sustain richer. I’d experiment more with the settings and try different combinations with the pedals and even some extreme tone settings just to get an idea of how everything work. You might be better off with setting the amp perhaps a tad too dark and use a booster or EQ pedal to add a tad of sparkle. A compressor pedal would also do that to some extent.

  7. Buster says:

    Hej Bjørn. :)
    I would like to start messing around with racks. But I don’t have ANY kind of experience with it.
    Where in che chain would you put the rack?
    In my rack I would like to use a varity of delays and modulation.
    I ask here, because I thinked about putting it in the back of my amp. I have an Ampeg, wich is a nice one, both for liv shows and in studio.

    And then, offcause! Like everyone in here, I want to thank you for the site. I look at it everyday, since I have it as my start-up site.. It’s great to read what you have to say.

    Happy new year, Bjørn!
    Buster fra Danmark.

    [Hei Buster! Takk for hyggelig kommentar! Usually one would place rack units with modulations and delays in the amp’s effects loop. This will give you cleaner signal bypassing the pre-amp stage. You can also place it after all your gain pedals like you’d normally do with stand alone modulation and delays. I’d go for this approach if you’re mostly using a clean signal from the amp. – Bjorn]

    • Dogukan says:

      Hi Bjorn,

      Congratulations for your new website ! I love it ! Thanks a lot ! I bought a new Laney lionheart 5 watt.Any recommendation for settings and pedal chain for this amp ? ( I have effectrode pc-2a,buffalo fx evolution,costa lab chorus,tc flashback and the boss rt-20. I usually play at home.

      Many Thanks,

      Dogukan

      • Bjorn says:

        These are the settings I have on my L20: normal channel (switch up), drive channel drive 2, volume full, bass 5, mids 10, treble 7, tone 3,5. It may be a bit too dark for replicating David’s tones but it’s a start at least. Your effects chain seems fine :)

        • Dogukan says:

          Hi Bjorn,

          Thanks a lot for the useful information. So which channel volume all the way up ? Clean or drive ? And do I have to use my fx loop for chorus,delay and rt20 ? Or do I have to use the all pedals with direct input ? You said a bit dark sound should I change my amp ? What do you suggest ?

          Many Thanks :)

          • Bjorn says:

            I’m using the drive channel. It has a bit more mid range than the clean channel. With the drive at 1, the amp has loads of headroom for the pedals – at least the L20 – so you don’t need to use the loop. Just plug all the pedals straight into the front input. Try switching to bright mode if you find my settings too dark.

  8. Ian Wicks says:

    Bjorn,
    I have three tube amps being a Mark iv Mesa Boogie, a Peavey Classic 30 and a Peavey Classic 50.
    I play a Fender Strat with the Seymour Duncan SSL and Fender Custom shop 69 Fat 50’s pick-ups and a PRS Custom 24 with treble “HFS” and bass “Vintage” pick-ups. The Mesa is very heavy and very loud so I tend to use the Classic 30 for rehearsals and smaller gigs. I have always loved the warm “Bluesey” tone of the Peavey when the input valves are cranked up via the pre-amp volume control even at relatively low output volume. Sacrificing this for a pedal “simulation” strikes me as rather odd but having read several excellent articles here on this website I realise this is something I need to try. Like so many guitarists out there one can’t help but be in awe of Dave Gilmour’s tones and so I will bow to his vast experience and knowledge and indeed your own. So my pedal purchasing quest begins here. I am not necessarily looking for the cheapest options but equally I don’t want to waste money buying the wrong items. The pedals I have already, apart from my Boss tuner,is a Boss Cs3 compression pedal (but it’s noisy), a vintage ’74 MXR phase 90, an MXR flanger, an Ibanez tube-screamer and a Cry-Baby wah wah pedal. Can you advise/recommend what distortion, overdrive and fuzz pedals I should consider and any other effect pedals to add to this in order to get closer to those illusive Gilmour-ish tones. One thing in my armoury which I guess should be a huge advantage is an original Binson PE603T echo unit. I await you comments with keen interest.

    Ian

    [Hi Ian. Sorry for my late reply. Wether or not you want to utilize a gain channel or the gain from cranked tubes or not depends on what tones you’re looking for. There’s no problem getting great Gilmour tones by using the gain channel on the Peavey and feeding the delays and modulations in the effects loop but David always depended on that clean amps and used pedals for gain instead. As does Eric Johnson, Joe Satriani etc. Hendrix did the opposite, cranking the hell out of his Marshalls and using fuzz pedals to take it over the edge. You really just have to find a setup that works for you. Now, your amps are very versatile and can handle most pedals. For a versatile setup that’ll cover anything from Gilmour to Sabbath, I’d go for a RAT, TC Electronics Dark Matter or a similar type of distortion. These will go nicely with the Tube Screamer as well. If you want a more Gilmourish approach, I’d consider a Big Muff, like the excellent Electroni Orange Pig Hoof or BYOC Large Beaver and perhaps a slightly more transparent booster/overdrive, like the Boss BD2, ThroBak Overdrive or Fulltone OCD. – Bjorn]

  9. David McDade says:

    Thanks a ton Bjorn, I was just in Guitar Center yesterday to try the Fender classic 50s strat against the Squier 50s Classic Vibe and was playin em on the Fender 59 Bassman reissue and man the Fender classic 50s with the bassman set up was Shine on(album version) in a can haha, the Squier was great too but had alot of fret buzz, probally beat up from tons of players thrashing it. Anyways thanks again for all your imput and advice. I truly appreicate another Gilmour fan taking the time. Oh and sorry for clogging the wrong tip of the week thread, my bad.
    Best of luck man from California, and happy jamming!
    -dave

    [Good luck with your tone and let me know if I can help :) – Bjorn]

  10. David McDade says:

    Thanks a ton Bjorn,i tried your suggestions that I could and it helped but the problem with this valvetronix 2×12 is you cant bypass the amp models, all the models are based off either old hard to find all tube(valve) vox amps, botuqe, and newer tube amps. The tech behind these amps is pretty trick but extremely frustrating. The power amp is analogue (but in miniature) using a 12AX7 valve, but with a virtual output transformer that “reads” the changing impedance and sends it through a dummy speaker circuit and then sends the signal to the virtual output transformer, kinda like a regular tube amp just half digital so you can have all the different amp models running through a tube. (im still super confused by it too after 6 years). Do you know any good all tube amps that arent extremely expensive that would work great for gigs and still get a good DG tone?
    Thanks a ton Bjorn, if your ever on the west coast of the U.S. Hit us up and hopefully ill have my rig dialed in!

    [There are lots of affordable tube amps for both studio and giging. Some of my favourites are the Laney Lionheart, Peavey Classic 30, Fender Blues Jr… I think my best advice would be to bring your guitar to your local guitar shop and try a bunch of amps in different price ranges. Now you know how to set them up so it should be easy to compare them. Good luck! – Bjorn]

  11. David McDade says:

    Oh by the way my amp is a Vox Valvetronix 50w 2×12 combo XL(im not at home rite now so dont quote me on the XL) series.

  12. David McDade says:

    Yes it has 11 different amp models and a 12ax7 tube preamp, I usually use the 1st or glass amp with the master vol at 80%, the vol at 70% the gain at 70%(on this amp setting gain is another vol) bass at 1oclock mids at 3 oclock and treble at 3to 4 oclock. I have the wattage at about 20w at home and at 40 to 50 watts with my band. I also use the 4th amp setting with master vol at 80%, gain at 20%, vol at 80% bass at 12 o clock, mids at 3 o clock, and treble at 2 to 4 o clock depending on if I have my phase90 on. The amp is set on manual mode so all the settings are set by me. Ive tried all kinds of settings but thats the cleanest I can get it without it starting to distort a bit which for some things is ok but im still looking for that sweet spot.
    Thanks again Bjorn I appreciate your imput on the matter.

    [Sorry for my late reply. I haven’t tried the amp so it’s hard to give anything but some general tips. For start, I think your mids and treble are a bit too high. Try rolling them down to around 40%. This may sounds a bit dark on low volume but it will roll off harsh overtones when you use distortions and it will usually allow a bit more headroom as well. Not sure how the gain works but try rolling that one down as well for as much headroom as possible. Also, if possible I’d try to switch off the amp sims and use the amp in direct or bypass mode for the purest tone. These modeling amps are mainly made with rock tones in mind and not perhaps the best suited for a clean basis for many pedals. The idea is that you don’t need pedals. You might want to consider replacing it somewhere down the line for a better suited amp for the tones you’re looking for. Check out this review for some tips on affordable bedroom amps. Let me know how this works and if you need more help. – Bjorn]

  13. David McDade says:

    Hey Bjorn I have an odd question I think and havent found an answer. Im using a Vox Valvetronix 50w, the tube preamp/ solid state job and even though its a task getting good clean sound out of it I manage, but im starting to get frustrated getting a sweetspot of a Clean/slight overdrive but without distorting. Ive taken it into the guitar shops and tried a whole bunch of different stomp boxes and even guitars through it but alas its either too quiet and I lose notes or it breaks up and sounds too gainy. I know its one of the worst amps for really clean(espically DG) tones but is there something im missing? I hope once I get tmy classic 50s MIM strat it’ll be easier but even strats give me the same problem with the Vox. Any thoughts would be very much appreicated.
    Thanks again Bjorn!

    [I’m not that familiar with the amp but it has amp modeling right? Let me know the settings you use and I’ll try to help. – Bjorn]

  14. Kurt says:

    I have a Fender twin and I use the effects loop for my delay, chorus, phase shifter and decimator.
    On the back of the amp there are two knobs for send and return. Is there a preferred setting for those? I think I have send on 10 and return on two. I’ve also played with them set at 5, but I’ve never known what/if there are preferred settings. Thanks!

    [You need to set them according to your guitar and effects. Impossible for me to say without having tried your rig. – Bjorn]

  15. Jose from Argentina. says:

    Thanks for the information dude !! Greats tips, great siteee.

    Greetings from Argentina.

    [Thanks! – Bjorn]

  16. Javid says:

    Thanks Bjorn it sounds great, by the way my Amp on clean channel has Gain, what setting do you suggest on it.
    Could you kindly send me the setting for learning to fly? Thanks a lot

    [It’s been a while since I used one but there’s a channel selector on the back I think. Choose the clean channel and set the amp as described in the last comment. That should give you a nice clean tone. I’ve used a Dual on many Airbag shows and it always delivers clean punchy tones. Learning to Fly is basically just an overdrive and chorus. – Bjorn]

  17. Javid says:

    I have Messa Boogie Dual rectifier and Fender with EMG pick ups. I play both home and with the band.

    Thanks so much

    [Use the clean channel on the Mesa and try these settings: bass 50%, mids 40%, treble 50-60% and set the master to about 1/3 of the channel volume. For Young Lust: Red Muck (gain 80%, tone 40%, level 60%), flanger and delay (aprox 440ms). I’d also use an transparent overdrive like the Boss BD2 with the Red Muck for a bit more bite. – Bjorn]

  18. Javid says:

    Hi, Bjorn,
    Could you tell me what is the effect setting for Young lust.
    I have Red Muck, phaser, Flenger, Dely, Rotary cab.

    Thanks a lot.

    Javid

    [What amp and guitar/pickups do you have? Do you mostly play at home or with a band? – Bjorn]

  19. Javid says:

    Hi, Bjorn,
    you have already helped me a lot thanks.

    [Cheers! – Bjorn]

  20. Javid says:

    Hi, Bjorn,

    Thanks for your help, could you check link below and let me know what is the best way I can connect my MPXG2 processor to my amp.

    Thanks

    http://www.lexiconpro.com/product_downloads/19/manuals/MPXG2_User_Guide_Rev0.pdf

    [I don’t have much experience with rack units so I’m probably not the best one to ask. There are different opinions on how you get the best tones as well. While it’s suggested by many to set the amp as flat as possible and let the processor do the EQ job I always recommend to utilize the tone from your amp and use whatever effect as colouring and not a dominating tone unit. In terms of David’s tones I’d plug the unit into the front input on your amp’s normal channel. Sorry I couldn’t be more specific. – BJorn]

  21. Javid says:

    Hi, Bjorn,

    Thanks for your help, could you please explain more about what you said in your previous help;
    Either in the front input or via send/return and first in the chain. You should also try to assign the internal effects like comp and volume boost in front of the modulations

    Thanks

    [I’m not familiar with the MPX but most effect units have send/return connections on the back panel. This basically means that you can either plug the external pedals into the main front input as you would do on an amp or place them in a loop with the MPX. This allows better tones if you want to utilize the MPX’s gain effects and compressors. Remember that you should keep all gain effects first, then modulations and last delays. Some units also allow you to create empty patches for the send/return effects and this way you can place the internal compressor in front of the pedals that are looped with the MPX. If this gets too tricky then simply plug all your pedals straight into the MPX’s front input. – Bjorn]

  22. Javid says:

    Hi, Bjorn,

    Thanks for all you do for us, I need help on my setup.

    I have Lexicon MPX G2 guitar effects processor with footswitch connected to Mesa boogie Dual rectifier send and return Channel FX loop, what is the best way to connect my pro co rat, jam pedal Red Muck, TS9, Boss equalizer, by the way my MPXG2 has all the modulation like, Delay, Comp, UniVybe, Phaser, Chorus, Flanger, Rotary Cab, Volume Boost, Echo

    Thanks

    [Since you have all these gain pedals I’d set the amp up for a clean tone. This should be the basis for all your tones. Try this: bass 50%, mids 40%, treble 50-60% and set the master at about 1/3 of the channel volume. Switch off any boost and gain stages. I’m not that familiar with the MPX G2 but the Red Muck > RAT > TS9 > GE7 should be placed in front of the unit. Either in the front input or via send/return and first in the chain. You should also try to assign the internal effects like comp and volume boost in front of the modulations. If the MPX allows it the line should be something like this: compressor > Red Muck > Rat TS9 > booster > GE7 > modulations (no particular order) > delays. – Bjorn]

  23. Brian says:

    The only thing that I would add, and I know this from experience, is to make sure your f/x loop setup (pedals, power supply for effects units in the loop) is in solid working order when playing live. Obviously, you should do this any way, regardless of whether you’re using a loop or not :)

    Running an f/x loop gives you another failure point in your signal chain. If you lose signal all of the sudden, it could be from somewhere in between your guitar and the amp input OR in the f/x loop. It can get especially annoying if you’re running pedals in both chains…now you have to figure out where the culprit is!

    The upside was that, when such failures would happen to me, I could just yank the cables out of the send and return jacks and everything would be back to normal in a split second. The downside was that I’d lose my Dunlop Rotovibe (the only pedal I would run through in loop because it sounded MUCH with all of that preamp gain pushing it) and the Univibe sound is a big part of my overall style :)

    [Good point :) – Bjorn]

  24. Dave says:

    A key concept for folks to wrap their heads around on this topic is ‘Gain Staging’. That is, the way that the individual stages of gain are set in the clean and distortion chain of the pedals, effects and amp.

    On an Arena stage, Dave’s Hiwatt’s are at their ‘just breaking up point’ at an acceptable level for the sound coverage required, and that gives the tonal and – importantly – the right feel under the fingers so the notes can be ‘worked’ to sing, or played softly and clean the feel under the fingers and the sound pressure from the speakers interacting with the guitar is what allows his tone to project and also remain dynamic to the touch.

    Replicating that at bedroom level is very difficult, however, Dave plays Fender amps on smaller gigs – and he still has the same tone and no doubt the same feel, but at a lower volume. So even smaller amps, like the Laney 12 can produce the same type of gain staging or sweet spot, but at an even lower volume.

    However….as you decrease the volume output by the amp, you decrease the sound pressure projected from the speaker, and you lose the dynamic interaction between the guitar and the amps speaker. People normally compensate for this by leaning into the amp to get feedback while working the string or trem bar. There is a limit to how low in volume you can go before the interaction is lost, and that’s when folks normally start plugging more distortion pedals or cranking the gain on the amp for more preamp gain to try and get the sustain / string interaction.

    That, however, changes the gain staging and as the amp isn’t getting any louder, still doesn’t result in that string / speaker / fingers interaction which is the key to the tone.

    Just some thoughts. Cheers.

    [Thanks for the input Dave. I agree that this is important to keep in mind. Not only in terms of how you build the tone but also for understanding how David’s tones works. It’s easy to get the right pickups and a bunch of pedals but the right amp for the occasion and knowing how to use it is equally important. More about working with feedback and gain in this post. – Bjorn]

  25. ruodi says:

    scott…oz: “I am thinking of changing the valves in the cub to a cooler type of valve so there is a bit more cleaner movement in the main channel (non master)than at present.
    Any suggestions would be greatly appreceated…”

    @scott…oz: Change the V1 (Ruby 12AX7/ECC83) for a 12AT7/ECC81! I´d recommend JJ and also Ei Yugoslavia.

  26. Vadim says:

    Hi, Bjorn!
    As you can see I’m from Russia. Our guitar forums dedicated to the sound of David, your site is an essential guide. In the sections devoted to amplifiers for tones of David, you tell about such characteristics as “headroom”. I can not translate this term in this context. What is it? This word is translated as “overall dimensions”. Or is it about the nature of sound? Bjorn, I’m not aggressive like my GT-OD:). I just really appreciate my playing and sound at the moment:) but I will definitely be improved.
    And yet. Shall not David does not use some pedals for boost tube of their amplifiers. I think that, for example, in the solo to cover Don’t he does just so?

    [Headroom is a term that’s used to describe how clean the amp is. The more headroom the cleaner the amp. As you can imagine, David’s Hiwatt amps has lots of headroom while a smaller 15w amp may distort when you increase the volume. David has been using Tube Driver overdrive pedals since 1994 to boost his amps both for clean tones and overdrives. Cheers! – Bjorn]

  27. Jake says:

    In fact, it is amazing how the Rt 20 reacts better and more organic sounds in the Loop. sounds more fluid and enjoyable, the best leslie simulator no doubt.

  28. Robert Farrer says:

    thanks for that Bjorn, sorry if i opened a can of worms there. would like to add i took your advice and have messed about with my amp settings tonight decent volume has been the key for me here. Got a great smooth tone out my driver/muff combination ( great with a bit of mistress thrown in for good measure ) and it was that nice simple setup that provided some nice wall like tones. As always thanks for your advice its worked wonders on my tone and really given me something to work with.

    [Great! It often pays off trying different settings and setups and thinking a little out of the box :) Volume is crucial of a good tone but, as you’ve experienced, doesn’t have to mean that you need to crank the hell out of your amp. Cheers! – Bjorn]

  29. Darkside says:

    There seems to be a lot of snobbishness out there towards multi-effects units. I’ve got a Boss GT-8 and an old Marshall Valvestate 100 combo at home, both of which I got for a really good price. My main “Gilmour” guitar is a 1996 Mexican strat that has been upgraded with a new neck and a set of CS54 pickups (not to mention the shortened tremolo arm!) and I get some pretty decent tones out of it!

    I’m not complaining, but not all of us who visit this site can afford Hiwatt amps or even a decent tube amp, or at least justify the expense of one unless you’re anything more than just a bedroom/livingroom musician. Perhaps it might be a good idea to start some articles for those of us who can only afford Marshall amps, or cheaper effects pedals? With the cost of things these days, shelling out close to a grand for a decent tube amp, or indeed any more than £200 is a lot to ask for what is, for the most of us, just a hobby.

    Back on topic – I’ve got an effects loop in my Valvestate that I’ve never used….would this perhaps work better with the GT-8?

    [If you’d looked around on the site, checked the features section and the blog archives, you’d realize that I’ve written more articles about budget gear than anything else. I started out with a Marshall solid state amp and a Boss GT3 processor and went from there and I still use a Line 6 POD X3 when I record guitars with my band Airbag. Check out the Buyer’s Gear Guide – Budget Gear feature for some tips on how to get a full rig for an affordable price. Check out the recent budget tube amps review that I did and this feature about how to get David’s lead tones with affordable and easy to find overdrive and distortion pedals. And there’s more… Hope this helped. Cheers! – Bjorn]

  30. sid says:

    All pickups involved in Pink Floyd history would be fine, Tim Renwick´s Lace sensors, (dunno why people reckon are EMG) and of course Dave´s EMG, Fender and Seymour Duncan!!!!

    [Cool. As I said I have some reviews coming up but I’ll try to write something a bit more generic about different pickup types etc. – Bjorn]

  31. Rick says:

    Sounds like their are a lot of cubs out there. I have a 12R. Any recommendations on settings and chain with the cub for DG sounds.

    [Usually set mine like this (15w channel): reverb off, tone 12:00, bass 12:00, treble 12:00, mids 11:00 and the gain no higher than 2 (about 8:00 o’clock). I run all pedals stright into the front input. – Bjorn]

  32. Toni says:

    Great article, as usual!
    Just curiosity: I see your point connecting all your pedals in the front input of your amp, searching for Gilmour’s tone which is your favourite one, but… have you ever considered to use an excellent amp’s channel distortion? I mean, there are plenty of great distortion channels out there, but obviously it would force you to connect time and modulation pedals through the loop.
    Once again, thanks from Barcelona for your great web, you solve many doubts!!!!!

    [Thanks Toni! For years I had Marshall 5210 solid state that I used at home for practice and it had an amazing gain channel with the cirquit of the classic Marshall Shredmaster (similar to a RAT). I often used the loop for delays and modulations and got some great tones. Perhaps not your typical Gilmour setup but fun indeed :) Cheers! – Bjorn]

  33. sid says:

    Nice like always Bjorn!!! Any future Tip of the week – pickups? lace senssors, EMG, fender etc..The more the resistence the more the out put? what makes theme have they characteristic sound? overwound, out of phase etc….thanks.

    [I’m not that familiar with different pickup brands or the technical side of it. I have some reviews coming up though. Any models you’d like to suggest? – Bjorn]

  34. scott...oz.. says:

    Hi Bjorn,
    I have never used a loop channel before but will have a go tonight at rehersal as i am using my Cub…
    I am thinking of changing the valves in the cub to a cooler type of valve so there is a bit more cleaner movement in the main channel (non master)than at present.
    Any suggestions would be greatly appreceated…
    Also i have made a specific Cab for the cub using two 25watt Webers(Ceramic and a Ainico mix)with a deflector directing the back spkr sound through an 80mm slot running the width of the cab…
    …..Awsome….
    I will send you an email with details in a week or so….

    [Please do. I have to try that my self. I’ve used JJ Electronic tubes for years and are very happy with them. – Bjorn]

  35. John says:

    Hi Bjorn

    Great job as always and interesting discussion.

    I bought my Reeves Custom 50 with Power Scaling and the FX loop, as you said, for a non-high gain amp the Loop is redundant, but could be very useful. I put the tuner in the loop, saving space on my pedalboard, avoiding another pedal in the chain (saving a space in my True Bypass strip). I use it for silent tuning, and could be use for effects with volume issues (as long as you have send and return levels as the Reeves). In my opinion is always better having it and not using it than needing it and not having it. Anyway I found a use for mine.

    Cheers

    [Good point. – Bjorn]

  36. André says:

    May I add that you can place a volume pedal or ex. a Boss GE-7 in the loop and use is for reducing the output volume. That way you can drive the preamp and reduce the output volume. This is nice if you don’t have a master volume and/or if the fx loop is after the master (not normal though).

    [Yes… kind of like an attenuator. – Bjorn]

  37. Allan says:

    Hey Bjorn, Nice article :) I’m really enjoying these.

    You mention that distortions and the like aren’t as good with practice amps/ smaller amps.

    Do you find this to be true for your laney? Personally, I love the tones I’m getting with the muff/rat pedals through it, but then again, I’m no expert and I haven’t played the muff through a quality 30-100W valve amp yet.

    Just wondering if you think the tone isn’t that great when you’re playing your old ram’s head and sun face through it.

    I LOVE those practice boards ;)

    [The Laney works nicely with most pedals I think. Even the more demanding Muffs and fuzz pedals, which can be a real pain to tweak on low volume. I was talking about smaller solidstates like the Roland Cubes and Vox Valvetronix that’s basically designed to have anything but a clean tone. Depends very much on the amp really but most tube amps should be able to handle Big Muffs, Tube Drivers etc. – Bjorn]

  38. Eric Nyberg says:

    Bjorn, I was wondering if you have any thoughts on the boss RC50 loop station. I know it’s not the type of looper you’re talking about here but it’s something that I’m considering getting. I want something that I could save string sections and horn sections to and then play back in a live setting or jam to. Can you recommend something for doing this?

    [I’ve never tried it myself so I can’t really tell. The Boss loopers gets a lot of praise though and you can do some pretty cool things with them but I have no idea how they work. Sorry. – Bjorn]

  39. David says:

    It should be noted that even when we claim to be using a “clean” sound on a tube amp, we are still utilizing the distortion generated by the tubes – albeit to a lesser degree. The reason we love tubes so much is the way they introduce even order harmonics to our sound. That is why tube amps are described as “warm” sounding.

    Even though DG is not running his hiwatts on 10 and thus running them into overdrive, he also would not be caught running them on 1 either. If he needed lessvolume he would use a smaller amp. In this way, he is in fact using power tube “distortion”. He is using a warm sweet spot BEFORE overdive within the amp’s volume range.

    So don’t worry about distorting your mods, reverbs, etc just because you want to use the sweet spot of your power tubes. Above all, use your ears.

    [I agree. I think it is important to always consider how you intend to use the amp. It’s funny to see how many guitarists that spend all their time tweaking their pedals but pay no attention to their amps. This applies to any genre of course. Not just Gilmour. As you point out as well it’s better to use a smaller or bigger amp depending on the venue rather than cranking or lowering the volume too much. In any case your ears should be the judge. – Bjorn]

  40. Rick says:

    Bjorn,

    But, when his gain stombox is turned up, isn’t that then distorting the preamp and power tubes. That is the part that I am not getting. Isn’t that what the petal does is to create higher signal which then takes the undistorted tubes and distorts them while also picking the distortion on the stomp box. Also, if you are not distorting the tubes, why have tubes. Isn’t the advantage of tubes to crank them up and then that warm sound comes through.

    [Hmmm… I’m terrible with the technical aspect of this. In essence, gain pedals are designed to recreate the sound of a distorted tube amp. In the 60s when almost every guitarist couldn’t get enough distortion out of their amps they used treble boosters to make the tubes distort even more. A treble booster is basically just an EQ boosting dedicated frequencies. Then the transistors appeared and in the late 70s pedals like the Tube Screamer and RAT appeard that were designed to pretty much sound like a fully boosted Marshall stack. The difference is that these pedals created a clipping effect on their own (I’m sure someone can explain this better than me) meaning that the pedals distorted them selves. So I guess you can say that with a Tube Screamer or RAT you don’t really need a tube amp. Between the treble booster and the RAT there are tons of different variations that will act different with both solid states and tube amps. Solid statas are usually more static and doesn’t get that effected by distortion pedals while tube amps are more dynamic and will react more with the gain pedals. In any case, whether you want a solid state or tube amp comes down to taste. There’s to rules and there are pros and cons with each. Although a tube amp appears clean you’re still utilizing the gain stage and the dynamics of the tubes although to a less extent. David’s not running 100% clean amps though but likes the amps just on the breaking point where you start to notice a slight break up. This is basically the secret to his smooth lead tones – the perfect match between the fuzz and the tubes. – Bjorn]

  41. Robert Farrer says:

    Hi Bjorn, i have to say i have a Big Muff and i just bought a tube driver and i use both on my VC-15 Laney amp… i dont quite understand the part about it not being best to use them on smaller amps, i have to admit when you have the amp in the 2-3 Volume range it doesnt tend to sound that great but when you have it around 4/5 on the volume i have to say it does tend to really sing alot better. What would you recommend as the minimum power output you should look at. would you recommend using something like a RAT instead of Muff/Driver pedals. I have to admit the Muff/Driver combo tends to get very loud even at around 4 on the amp specially for just a practice amp in your room. Do you think your Laney Cub with the 1w input may work that little bit better for this issue ?

    [It all depends on the overall character of the amp. By “smaller amps” I’m talking about the average 5w and 10w solid state practice amps like the Roland Cubes, Vox Valvetronix and similar but also tubes amps like the Fender Champ, Laney Cub8 etc. These amps tend to have very little headroom meaning the louder you play the more they distort. In that case I recommend using either the amp’s gain stage for your leads or a more versatile overdrive/distortion like the Tube Screamer and RAT, which seems to work on almost anything. This is a topic of its own but pedals like the Muff and Tube Driver were designed to be used with tube amps and the combination of the pedal and a dynamic tube is essential to get David’s smooth lead tones. This means that the pedal will change character dramatically the more you push the amp. If you look at David’s setting they’re fairly mild although his tones tends to be quite agressive. That’s pretty much the result of a loud tube stack. You can replicate a similar tone on lower levels by adding a booster and also a compressor with the Muff. This creates a smoother tone and the compressor also compensates for the lack of teh natural compression you get from hot tubes. Keep in mind though that on lower levels you need to adjust the settings on those pedals. I usually increase the gain on the booster/overdrive and the sustain on the compressor. – Bjorn]

    • jc says:

      Hi Bjorn,
      which order do you recommend using the booster and compressor pedals with the Big Muff when using in conjunction with solid state amps? are you using either pedal in the effects loop to mimic power tube compression? also which models of compressor and booster to recommend for this application?

      • Bjorn says:

        What sort of amp do you have? I would run everything into the front end, with the compressor > Muff > booster. How this sounds depends on what amp you have and how well it can handle three gain pedals at once. Solid state amps aren’t as dynamic and are less responsive than a tube amp so you might experience that blanding all three gain pedals with the amp is a bit too much.

  42. Dino says:

    Though I use the clean channel, I use the effects loop to control the level of my time based effects. I am not using the send of the amp however. I use the electric mistress to split the signal. The direct out goes to the amp’s normal input. The flanged out goes to my Univibe and then the return of the amp. This way I can control the amount of time based effects I get.
    I’ve considered using a Morley blender pedal. I think that would be a great way to control the levels live for some interesting effects.

    -Dino

  43. Hugo says:

    Hi. As a mesa boogie amp owner I must say that I agree. The loop works great if you use the gain channel of your amp. Also, is basic to have a GOOD loop in your amp. Not every amp has a good fx loop. Some only works good with rack’s fx processors and it also depends if the loop is serial or parallel.

    I must say that my RT-20 sounds better in the loop (serial) and after the delays. It works great in that way.

    [Good point. – Bjorn]

  44. ruodi says:

    I wished there had been some gilmourish “tips of the week” about 20+ years ago – when I stood in the guitar shop searching for THE Gilmour tone. Understand the dilemma? 20+ years ago – the poser metal era! Beeing “gilmourish” was absolutely faggot these days, and everybody had a refrigerator at home instead of a pedalboard – and finally there was no internet! And if you had ANY request about achieving a certain Gilmour guitar tone, the two obligatory & deathly answers were:

    1. “Well, that´s all purely a matter of taste!”

    2. “You´ve got to have it inside your fingers!”

    … I remember how I asked: “What kind of amp is this?” (A cheap 100W amplifier with these oddly “electric iron”ish turning knobs at the front panel.) And I also remember how the sales assistant answered me: “Oh, Hiwatt! This was just a kind of a poor man´s Marshall amp. People who couldn´t afford a Marshall used Hiwatt!”

    So I bought myself a 19″ ENGL preamp/power amp combination! Well, what can I say: … Sold it a couple of years ago.

    I also wished I could make the guy/this shop responsible for recourse after all these years! – My ENGL experience was just the beginning of a long-time odyssee! Today everybody knows how to sound gilmourish. They even have DVD´s showing them how to play certain Gilmour solos – play´em much better than I ever did before (watch youtube)! … Yes, it IS that frustrating! All this guidance & understanding comes many years too late! :-(

    BTW: Couldn´t afford a 7W HIWATT Custom, so I´m playing the recommended Laney Cub12 at the moment – VERY gilmourish sounding! – And it has got an FX loop! ;-)

    Midlife-Crisis!

    [Well Roudi… what can I say? Although I didn’t start playing guitar until the grunch days of the early 90s there was hardly any info on the net at all (internet was pretty new at the time too) and being Gilmourish was still considered kind of faggot. I mean, Curt Cobain was the hero. Not mine though. Anyway, the guy should be held responsible for stating that Hiwatt was a poor man’s Marshall! I mean come on! I hope though that you haven’t given up completely and that my site can provide some sort of inspiration :) Cheers! – Bjorn]

  45. Rick says:

    I have actually been asking myself a lot of questions around this topic as of late. In order to really utilize my power tubes, not preamp, I need to jack the volume way up for that warm saturated tone. But, if I do that, aren’t I distorting the mods and delay and reverb since the loop is before the power tubes. I also have messed around with running my distortion/overdrive directly into the loop bypassing the preamp and instead using my preamp on my Multi effects box since I don’t have the four wire setup mentioned above. Why do I need the preamp on my tube amp. I guess my question is, DG would do it the best way. He has all his boxes it appears before his amp. How is he not distorting his mod effects. Is he splitting off signals into other amps. Is he not fully cranking power tubes. Any help would be great.

    [Well, he’s using a fairly mild setup on his amp. Neither the preamp nor the output/power stage are fully cranked. That’s the whole “secret” to his tone – the perfect balance between the two. A gain stompbox is basically a preamp that’s either used to distort a clean channel (Gilmour) or to boost an already distorted amp (Hendrix). Pedals will always sound their best if you find the balance between the amp and the pedal. – Bjorn]

  46. BD says:

    And if I dare even mention it…. LOL…. amp send/return loops are extremely useful when using a digital multi-effects (MFX) board that also has a Send/Return loop. One combines the MFX output, amp input, and two loops to create a configuration that allows splitting the digital MFX effects loop with the amp effects loop. This allows placing the gain-based effects before the amplifier gain stage, and modulation effects after the gain stage. Just as you are describing with use of pedals, but it seems much more common with users of MFX boards due to the ease of setting up this ‘4-cable method’ configuration.

    [Multi… what? LOL! You’re right. I did just that with a Boss GT3 that I had many years ago. Worked nicely. – Bjorn]

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