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actives overloading pedals?

Discussion in 'Effects [BG]' started by niftydog, Jul 21, 2005.

  1. Looking for some mutual shoulder crying here!

    I'm a big user of effects pedals, both bass oriented and regular guitar stuff. Never had a problem with my passive Warwick Corvette, with the exception of some tone sucking. However, my new baby, a custom Stingray, is overloading some of my pedals. I'm now looking at ways of addressing this, maybe with a Bassbone.

    Anyone else coming across this problem???

    So, I'm now on a bit of a quest to research this issue. I've been trying all kinds of different pedals with all kinds of different active basses, mostly humbuckers, and I'm finding that a lot of effects units fail dismally when faced with the high output of modern basses. (or I suppose it could be impedance mismatch as well.)

    Units that have failed include; Bass Crybaby, Ibanez WH-10, Boss GT-6B and ME-50B (which makes me wonder what Wooten does!) and many others. The main one I keep coming across is distortion on the low end of a wah sweep.

    Turning down the basses volume works, but that's far from an ideal solution. Anyway, I'm just wondering how many of y'all have encountered this same thing!
  2. bassman314

    bassman314 I seem to be a verb, an evolutionary process...

    Mar 13, 2005
    Bay Area, CA
    All three of my basses are active, and I've never encoutnered this problem. Is the Stingray an 18v or 9v?

    Are you running your bass direct to your effects, or is it looped out?
  3. syciprider

    syciprider Banned

    May 27, 2005
    Inland Empire
    What else is on the chain of effects? My Auto Wah on a usable setting doesn't want my MXR 80 on. I get that sound of feedback getting ready to bust out.

    My bass is active also btw.
  4. fretlessrock

    fretlessrock Supporting Member

    Aug 8, 2002
    If your signal is too hot for your pedals then you can do a number of things: turn down the bass volume; put a pedal up front that doesn't have overload problems; use a preamp type device with either a resistive pad (a fixed volume control) or adjustable gain - which pretty much describes a Bassbone. You could also use the amp's effects loop if it has one. The amplifier front end will take care of your bass dynamics and the loop has its own level control circuitry.

    Maybe some of those ideas will help.
  5. Stingray is 9V. My next bass is gonna be a Pbass deluxe, that's gonna be even worse!

    I have tried the fx loop on my amp, but I really don't like the sound it gives. You can adjust the send level and low pass cutoff, but then you don't get enough beef out of the effects at the return end. The fx loop has a level knob to mix it back in with the clean, and so when the fx loop send is at a low level it just gets swamped by the clean signal at the return.

    It blows for time based effects like delay and flange, as well as wah wah too, sadly.

    The times I've encountered this it's been direct from the bass, via the wah into an amp. No other pedals to interact with, but there could still be an impedance problem there someplace.

    Given that most pedals are unity gain devices, I don't think putting an unaffected pedal up front will stop the overloading, but I will certainly try it.

    I guess it's down to the local to test drive a bassbones! Still, I wish it had a low pass blend for the effects loop...
  6. brooklynbassguy

    brooklynbassguy Supporting Member

    Feb 8, 2004
    maplewood, nj, usa
    I just found this because I'm having the same issues. My passive bass is great with my pedals, but my 5 string with an aguilar pream just distorts everything to the point that I've given up using pedals on my 5. Have you found any solutions?
  7. seanm

    seanm I'd kill for a Nobel Peace Prize! Supporting Member

    Feb 19, 2004
    Ottawa, Canada

    Really, if the preamp is too hot, turn it down. Simplest solution.

    My second solution would be a passive attenuator (maybe a Loooper?). Note this is the same as turning your bass down.

    You could also try the bassbone. But that is just a very expensive way to turn your bass down.

    You could also try a SansAmp BDDI. I notice that it tends to "tame" hot pedals, but it will also colour your tone.

    I think the best solution would be to turn the bass down.
  8. tplyons


    Apr 6, 2003
    Madison, NJ
    Back in my Stingray playing days, I tried Bassballs time and time again. Never worked for me, but works great with a Preicison bass. Envelope filters and autowahs usually suffer from this at times.
  9. syciprider

    syciprider Banned

    May 27, 2005
    Inland Empire
    And here I am wanting more drive!
  10. hmmm.

    So I've tried a few things and here's what I've discovered;

    Seems wahs and envelopes suffer the most.

    Turning down works, but in my case I have to turn down A LOT before it's reliably not distorting, and it's a danger in the middle of a gig if you decide you need more volume and end up overloading your effects.

    In my line of work you want it to be idiot proof, so it's gotta work at full volume, because one day you'll be bound to crank the volume and stuff it up. So, that's not ideal.

    I have a BDDI, but I've really gone off the sound. The presence control is really harsh and seems to add some nasty, lingering noisey distortion that tails off the end of every note. I'm not sure if it's always been like that, but it's definately always been harsh. So I'm leaving that in the cupboard of late.

    I've sussed out the Bassbone and it was ok - but I'm conflicted about it. It doesn't colour the tone as much as a BDDI can, but I'm not sure if this is a good or a bad thing. Same goes for it's features; on one hand it's feature packed with useful stuff, and on the other hand it try to do too much. I like things that have lots of features, but this one seems to lack a few that I would have liked (like a low pass effects send). So, it's good, but it doesn't replace the need for a Paralooper in my set up.

    Next one to try and test out is the EBS Microbass II. Similar to the above, but unique and different in a refreshingly inspired way.
  11. sloppysubs


    Nov 24, 2002
    Swansboro, NC

    I noticed that too. Enveloping effects suffering from active bassess.

    My Zon is active and I haev no problems whatsoever with it and my pedals. So I can't complain.
  12. seanm

    seanm I'd kill for a Nobel Peace Prize! Supporting Member

    Feb 19, 2004
    Ottawa, Canada
    niftydog I notice you have built some pedals. This is out in right field, but the bazz fuss also dosen't like low impedance (such as active basses) in front of it. The solution is using the primary side of a transformer.

    This might help with your effects and might be worth a shot. I would just wire a plug and jack up to the transformer to test it.

    More information here: Bazz Fuss.
  13. fretlessrock

    fretlessrock Supporting Member

    Aug 8, 2002
    Every one of these gain related problems is due to the same thing: the bass is too damn loud. The reason that envelope filter pedals have a hard time is because they have to detect the voltage envelope provided by your bass, and if everything is above its detection level then it doesn't sound like it is doing anything or it sounds like it is always open or closed. Many filters have a sensitivity control that you can use to adjust the input voltage range that the effects responds to. Match the signal to the effect. Simple.

    It would be great if basses and amps and effect pedals were just black boxes that you turned on and watched as they magically did their business. It is not the way things work. The sound of the presence control on your BDDI got ya down? TURN IT DOWN. You bass signal is too hot? Turn it DOWN. Find a solution. You can use Loopers with blend controls and passive volume controls. You can use a DI/Switcher with an effects loop. You could run effects in your amp's effects loop. But you can't do it willy-nilly and expect it to sound fabulous.

    Gain Structure is important in every signal chain. You can completely change the final sound without moving modules around, but just by changing where gain is present and where it isn't and how much there is where there is. Matching up the incoming signal level with the ideal range for each device is not an inconvenience, it is a fact of life.

    "We've tried nothin', and we're all out of ideas" - Ned Flander's beatnik mom
  14. dirtgroove


    Jan 10, 2003
    Taipei, Taiwan
    set your eq flat- my ray is way to hot if I boost the eq
  15. I resent your attitude, fretlessrock. You don't really know the full extent of what I (or anyone in this thread) has tried as nobody has posted a blow by blow description of their testing process, so just chill out and post with a bit more sensibility next time, ok!?

    well duh.

    My issues have nothing to do with the envelope sensitivity. My main issue was with a wah pedal and it related to the fact that the effect distorted mid sweep. Besides, changing the sensitivity of an envelope based effect will NOT stop it from clipping the signal at the input buffer.

    Yeah, that's really helpful, thanks. I guess I'll just shape my tone around a complete lack of those vital frequencys and I'll be fine...

    Clearly you have not read through this thread properly, I refer you to my post just prior to your last abomination.

    You can't just post willy-nilly and expect it to sound clever either.

    Yes, that's right, that's why we're discussing this very issue.

    Gain structure isn't just about setting levels so things don't distort, it's also about acheiving a good signal to noise ratio by feeding each stage with the appropriate signal level so that no single amplification stage has to boost the signal excessively.

    "Simply" turning down your bass DOES NOT result in a good gain structure. Especially considering that many effects pedals simply do not have provision to easily adjust their gain settings. Makes it kinda hard to do any gain structuring!

    In fact, turning down your bass is likely to result in more problems with envelope effects. The threshold setting may not be able to compensate for a low level signal.

    Besides all of this, having your bass set at 30% volume is a recipe for disaster. Ideally you want to limit the potential for a situation where something can be overloaded. That is to say, it's gotta work with the source signal cranked, or else you've not got enough headroom in the system to cope with transients and a situation where a device in the chain boosts the signal a bit.

    ...and we haven't even talked about the effect of a low level signal on an amps input stage.
  16. Is there an emoticon for "banging head on desk"?
  17. How about putting a volume pedal before your effects chain?
  18. Same problems as mentioned above - excpet worse because it only takes someone to fart near your carefully postitioned volume pedal and you're screwed.

    Just for the record, I wasn't asking for solutions to this problem - What I was seeking was some input from people who have already covered this ground and come up with a solution of their own that works for them.

    I'm currently trying different methods and evaluating them for my own purposes. Ultimately I think I will be modifying the input and output stages of the problem pedals so that they can cope with the high signals whilst retaining unity gain throughput.

    Yet another problem is that I need all my pedals to work with both my basses, so I have to be careful how I solve this problem.
  19. What exactly is the difference between asking for solutions and asking for input from people who have a solution?

    If your bass signal is too hot for your effects, you can either try all sorts of pedals in between to drop the signal. A simple twist of the volume knob will do the same thing. Sorry if you're offended when people point that out.

    If you're using a bunch of floor pedals, I can't imagine why you'd be concerned about the signal to noise of the bass preamp from the volume knob turned down. The floor pedals are notoriously noisy in comparison. I'm sure some people spilled their drinks as the Titanic took on water. But it wasn't spilled drinks that sunk the Titanic.

    If you're really that concerned, just add a little resistor network between the output of the bass pre and the output jack on the bass. Build a little metal box with resistors in it to drop the bass signal. You're making this whole thing way too complicated.

    Turn the bass down if its too loud.

    I just can't seem to lose weight. I've tried EVERYTHING except diet and exercise. NOTHING seems to work!
  20. hieronymous


    Nov 28, 2002
    Northern CA
    This thread's getting a little out of hand, but I'm gonna give it a whirl.

    Personally, I prefer passive basses, with a preamp at the end of the chain. I've got a Fodera Model 2000, and just picked up an Alembic F-2B. Instead of boosting the various EQ frequencies at the instrument end, I'd usually set the instrument as flat as possible, then boost stuff after the effects.

    My impression of active electronics is that, unlike passive basses where all the way up is zero and turning down is going lower than that, active electronics allow you to boost volume and EQ. The implication is that all the way up isn't zero - it's more like +15 or something. Another reason I don't like active electronics - I'm an "allthewayup" kind of guy - I don't like having to adjust my volume knob somewhere in the middle. I don't see myself being very consistent at it, and I'm always wondering, "Is this where it's supposed to be set?" I've got a fretless with a Bartolini preamp, and lately I've been really tempted to have the preamp taken out and passive electronics put in.

    Oh, and before I forget, that active fretless definitely has issues with various effects. I've used it to try out new gear, the stuff sounds like ass, try a different (passive) bass, and the stuff sounds great. This has gone for distortions and delays.

    Good luck niftydog!