blending and transparency

I’d like to talk a little bit about my newest piece of gear. It’s the Xotic X-blender, and I really think it’s gonna change things for me. Basically, it’s a little pedal that allows you to blend your clean tone with the tone of whatever pedals you stick in the effects loop. I have been using it with my overdrives, and I am very happy with it so far.

People on gear forums talk a lot about transparent overdrives, and it has kind of become a joke because the word transparent means something different to almost everyone that uses it to describe a pedal. I’ve read people say that a tube screamer is a transparent overdrive, which is ridiculous to me.

For me to use the word transparent to describe an overdrive, it has to do a couple of things.

1) It can’t impart it’s own EQ curve to the signal in such a way that it can’t be dialed out. Pedals like tube screamers (and the myriad variations on the circuit) and Klon(e)s have a very distinct midrange boost that you can’t completely dial out.

2) It can’t introduce an unreasonable amount of compression. Most overdrives add a ton of compression to your signal as you turn the gain up. I have only played a handful of uncompressed overdrive pedals.

The point of me saying all that stuff about transparency is that a blender basically allows you to give pretty much any pedal a certain degree of transparency. Some overdrives that boost the mids tend to muddy up your signal, making more complex chords somewhat indistinct. Blending your clean allows you to add a little sparkle, chime, or clarity (or any other tone buzzwords) back into your signal. An overly compressed overdrive can rob your playing of dynamics. A clean blend allows those subtleties to be reintroduced without getting rid of the dirt.

The coolest thing about the X-Blender is the big mix knob on top. It was designed to allow you to adjust the blend with your foot while playing. I don’t know about you, but I hate having to bend over in the middle of a song to tweak a setting on a pedal. If you need a little more/less dirt, you can just nudge the knob clockwise with your toe and shift the wet/dry mix a little bit.

Basically, it is a very cool pedal. It is especially cool if you are really into cleanish/edge of breakup tones. I know that other guitarists have used it with delay, reverb, and other effects, but I haven’t really looked into that possibility yet.

5 thoughts on “blending and transparency”

  1. I know you use real amps, and modeling’s probably not your thing, but I’ve done something similar on my Line 6 Pod X3, where I run the signal through two amp sims, one a dirty Marshall and one a clean Fender, and blend the two signals to one output. Result is that I get the nice dirt but also a sparkling clean that gives the notes definition. Makes playing cowboy chords with distortion a lot more fun, too. :)

  2. this thing seems to be very flexible. i can see myself using it for various things like fuzz and modulation pedals that doesn’t have a mix knob. good score!

  3. Predictably, I sold this a few weeks ago. I found that I wasn’t really using it, and I am in the middle of a pedal purge. If I’m not using a pedal, it’s gone. I no longer have any overdrives on my board. Compressor, Boost, VP, and a couple of amazing delays. I also have the massive footswitch for my amp, which has a great overdrive/distortion channel as well as really nice-sounding reverb. I think I want to add the Strymon Flint when it comes out.

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