First of all, I have not lost my job. As far as I know, I am in no danger of losing my position. I didn’t want anyone to get wrong ideas about my occupational situation based upon the title of this post. No, I received my new, smaller, lighter pedalboard this week and it is now fully assembled and ready to go. It is pretty much a perfect fit for my M13 and 2 FV-500H pedals. I’m not using the MXR EQ anymore – I’m only using the EQs in the M13.
I spent a while dialing in some tones on the M13 last night. In doing so, I discovered the importance of using EQ. There are several EQ models that are geared towards different purposes, but I spent most of my time using the graphic EQ model.
I had the most success using the EQ after overdrive/distortion. I was able to change a sloppy rhythm tone into crisp, Marshally tone just by slightly boosting the bass/treble frequencies and slightly cutting the mids. By “slightly,” I mean that my adjustments were less than 1 dB in any direction – any more made the tone really harsh and fake-sounding. I found that the key is to make small adjustments.
However, I found that the biggest challenge is in balancing the tones with each other. Tweaking the rhythm tone caused some of my other scenes to be really lackluster in comparison. As a result, I spent about an hour EQing my other favorite scenes so that they are all somewhat compatible with each other. In other words, I don’t want to go from a clean tone to an overdriven tone and sound like a completely different setup (unless it’s intentional). Anyway, my tones are much more sparkly now. It’s amazing what a little EQ can accomplish. Of course, I’ll have to make some adjustments when playing with a band, but I’ll cross that bridge later…
Unfortunately, I’m having a really hard time dialing in a good lead tone with the M13. Everything that I have come up with just ends up sounding fake. Maybe I have just grown accustomed to the amazing natural tube saturation that my Sig:X gives me. Whatever the reason, I may have to keep an analog distortion in the M13’s effects loop.
I would like to be able to run the M13 without any external pedals for simplicity’s sake, but I haven’t quite figured out how to do that yet. Fortunately, running a pedal in the FX loop doesn’t necessarily add another stomp to the effects switching thing, since you can set up the effects loop to be on or off in individual scenes. I can leave the distortion pedal on all the time, but if my “clean” scene doesn’t use the FX loop, then it will just bypass it.
I need to record another video when I get the chance. Of course, that will have to wait until I get my new speaker cab. I sold the Avatar 2×12 that I have been using, and I’ll be ordering a new Fryette cab in the next couple of days. It should be awesome. I’m probably going to get another 2×12, but I’m toying with the idea of a 4×12. I can get a used 4×12 for cheaper than a new 2×12, and I can’t find a used 2×12 anywhere. However, the 4×12 is (obviously) significantly bigger and heavier that a 2×12. It’ll have casters, but still…
I made a little video demonstrating latch mode on the M13. I haven’t really tweaked these tones yet (especially the overdrive/distortion) so it’s a little rough right now. However, you can see the possibilities that this setup affords. Let me know what you think.
Well, here’s the latest iteration of my pedalboard. [sarcasm] I know that my readers are always waiting with bated breath for the newest inconsequential pedal addition/substitution. [/sarcasm]
Anyway, Since my main amp has such amazing natural tube overdrive/distortion, I don’t have to use pedals with it. As such, I decided to experiment with taking all of my dirt pedals off the board. So, my signal is currently guitar – M13 (2 FV500H expression pedals) with the MXR EQ in the loop.
When I use this live with my Sig:X, I’m going to set up the filters, comps, and drive effects to come before the preamp stage of the amplifier. Delays, modulations, reverbs, and EQ will be in the effects loop. At church, I just run this into a clean VOX AC15.
I have been experimenting the with the drives that are built into the M13 and some of them are surprisingly usable, especially the tube screamer, tube drive, and L6 drive. There’s a lot of tweaking that can be done with these sounds to make them very natural-sounding. Of course, a few of the models are just bad and should probably be tossed out. All in all, I’m still pleased with the M13 and I think that I’ll probably hang on to it for a while. Once I get some settings finalized, I’ll probably record some clips to give you an idea of what it’s capable of.
I have had a little time to spend with the M13, so I guess it’s time to share some thoughts. First impressions are that this thing is very cool. I haven’t messed with all the sounds yet, but a lot of them sound great.
First of all, the delays are awesome. There are a bunch of different ones to choose from, and they’re all very tweakable. I’m very happy about the inclusion of the Lo-Res delay from the DL4. I owned a DL4 for a couple of weeks, and the Lo-Res delay was my favorite sound on the pedal. Unfortunately, it was accompanied by an unacceptable volume drop, so it had to go. The M13 seems to have corrected this unfortunate situation.
Anyway, I used it at church on Sunday and it was really easy to dial up a few basic delay tones that worked really well. I set up two delays in series (tube echo dotted eighth > analog echo w/mod dotted eighth) and it was perfect for the U2/modern worship thing. I initially had the mix set too high, but it was easy enough to tweak on the fly.
The M13 has an effects loop, which enables you to place external stompboxes within the effects chain. On Sunday I didn’t have this set up, so all of my distortion pedals were in front of the M13 which didn’t work out too well. Because of this, I decided to try out a couple of the M13’s overdrive pedal tones. I ended up using the tube drive model, which is supposed to be designed to sound like the Chandler Tube Driver. Anyway, I was pleasantly surprised to get some totally usable tones out of it. Granted, the digital models aren’t as organic as the analog counterparts, but it’ll work in a pinch. My main gripe is that the digital overdrives don’t really clean up with the guitar’s volume control or a light pick attack. Since Sunday, I have rearranged my board a little and put the od/distortions into the loop. It sounds much better this way.
I really like using expression pedals with this thing. There are obvious uses like wah, whammy, and volume control, but you can assign the expression pedal to manipulate any parameters that you want. It can be as simple as using the exp pedal to control the gain setting on your overdrive pedal. However, you can use the pedal to change every setting on any given effect. In the heel down position, you could have a dry digital delay setting with low repeats, moderate feedback, and no modulation. The toe down position could be a very warm self-oscillating delay with infinite repeats. Of course, as you sweep back and forth, you get a blend of the two delay sounds which gives you a lot of flexibility in controlling your tone. Right now, I only have one expression pedal but I will be picking up a second in the very near future.
In short, I am pretty pleased with the M13. I have decided to sell my Timeline delay pedal as well as the Rocktron MIDI controller that I was using with it. If you’re interested, let me know…
Well, I’m working on the new setup. This is the new board, and it’ll probably stay like this for a while – at least until I can grab a second expression pedal. [EDIT: I moved some things around and put my dirt pedals in the effects loop of the M13 so that they can be after wah/filters/compressors/volume pedal, but before delays. I also cleaned up the wiring a little bit.]
I still have a long way to go in terms of figuring this thing out. There are just so many different doodads and gizmos in here. Delays, reverbs, phasers, flangers, whammy/pitch-shifting, boosts, compressors, overdrives, distortions, wahs, step filters, etc. They’re not all great, but a lot of them are pretty awesome.
I’m a little overwhelmed, but I’m mainly trying to get it figured out enough to use at church this weekend without going completely overboard. I need to remember that the M13 is not replacing my entire board (yet). For now, the M13 is primarily acting as my delay pedal. As long as I can get 3-4 good delay settings, I should be fine.