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Front-end vs effects loop

Discussion in 'Effects [BG]' started by Alexander, Mar 18, 2004.

  1. Alexander


    Aug 13, 2001
    Seattle, WA
    OK - sooo... this is probably a very basic question. Does the placement of an effect have impact on tone? What I mean is, if I go bass to effect to amp, will that sound different than going from bass to amp and then hit the effect through the effects loop? I tried this with my Bass Xciter pedal with my new amp (SWR SM-500). When I tried it with the box on the front end, it sounded really artificial, whereas running it through the effects loop seemed more natural sounding (to me, anyway). Am I crazy? (don't answer that - I'm still trying to dial in tone with this thing that works) :p

    If it does have an impact, why? (Just for my own learning)

    Thanks for the help.
  2. BryanB

    BryanB Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    No, you are not crazy. The effect loop has very different characteristics than most basses. For example, your passive P-Bass has relatively high impedence and a complex signal. An effect loop has generally low impedence, and a smoother response curve. Parallel loops tend to sound/react differently from serial loops due to the added electronics.

    So generally you want to put dynamic effects such as distortion in front of the amp. That way the effect "sees" the signal from the instrument and responds accordingly. The sound is generally more natural, and interactive, with better dynamics. Non-dynamic effects, such as chorus, effects sound better in an effecs loop. The loop will impart less distortion, so your chorus sounds richer and cleaner.

    In general though, you should put the effect where you think it sounds best.

    Personally, I put everything in front of the amp. I don't generally hear that much difference by putting the non-dynamic effects in the loop. Having everything up front makes set-up much easier. I use very high quality effects and generally raise the voltage a little on certain effects for increased headroom. (Reduces distortion.) Of course, I only do this after discussing this with the pedals designer to insure that I am not stressing the components.
  3. Christopher


    Apr 28, 2000
    New York, NY
    The effects loop in most (if not all) amps is between the preamp and the poweramp stages. As a result, the signal that gets fed into the effects if they're in the loop is hotter than the signal coming straight from the bass, as well as being affected by the amp's EQ section.

    If you're using a passive instrument, running effects through the loop improves the signal-to-noise ratio and can clean things up perceptibly.
  4. Alexander


    Aug 13, 2001
    Seattle, WA
    As I played with this earlier, I found the Xciter would distort (when in the effects loop) unless I turned the gain on the amp WAY down, which I don't want to do because I don't think I'll be able to get the level of volume I need out of my rig without it. With the effect in front of the amp, I can then crank the gain up a bit and be fine. Actually, when I put the effect in front of the amp and backed off the gain, it sounded virtually the same as when in the effects loop. So I guess most of the difference in what I was hearing had to do with the gain itself. Learned some new things today! :)

    Thanks for the help!
  5. bmc


    Nov 15, 2003
    I run effects between my bass and the amp. I ran them in the pre in/out and didn't notice a difference.

    I have my setup as follows: Bass into an EBS Octave, then to a Boss Chorus, then to a Sadowsky Preamp Di. That sequence enables me to boost the signal after going through the pedals. Also, I run a 10 foot cable between my bass and my pedal board, then a 15 foot cable to the amp. The Sadowsky helps with signal loss going through such long cables and boxes.

    I'm very satisfied with that setup. In fact, I took an 18 foot extension chord and loop fastened it to the guitar cable, making setup a quick affair. I just unroll it on the floor, duct tape it where necessary, plug into my power reel, plug in the amp and guitar cables and go. Fast to tear down at 3am.
  6. BryanB

    BryanB Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    You should see if you can use a higher voltage. Also, make sure you are using a good quality power supply. Insufficient or dirty power can add a lot of noise and distortion.
  7. Alexander


    Aug 13, 2001
    Seattle, WA
    I've been using a fresh battery - would using a power adapter potentially help? I thought about using my SABDDI after the Xciter to boost the signal going into the power amp, too but have not yet tried it.
  8. BryanB

    BryanB Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    I would certainly do it that way. It sounds like the Xciter is not designed for the higher gain from the SABDDI.

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