Hopefully you’ve read a few of our TECH Tips articles by now, where we’ve covered topics like compression, recreating amps inside pedals and demystifying the extravagances of the RevivalDRIVE. It’s these last two topics that this month’s Tech Tips follows on from. Let’s say you’ve done as you’re told and bought a RevivalDRIVE to replace the amp in your signal path. Where do you actually place it?
For the purposes of this article, I’m going to use the RevivalDRIVE Compact as an example of our Analogue Amp Recreation pedals, but it could just as easily be a RevivalDRIVE, DELUXE61 or MAGMA57 – they all do different versions of the same job.
Because these pedals accept and output regular ol’ pedal signals, they can go literally anywhere in your chain without damaging anything. Also, with the lines between pedals and studio gear getting increasingly blurred, there isn’t an obvious “right place” in your signal chain. So, we’ll focus on three possible configurations and look at what’s involved.
Example 1 – Replacing an amp in a vintage-style signal chain:
In a traditional guitar signal chain, the amp is always at the end. It has to be, because it’s what’s driving the speakers and getting loud Rock music to the ears of your adoring pub-goers. In the case of a vintage, non-master volume amp, this means that your main overdrive tone is at the end of your signal chain too, and that any other effects placed upstream are subject to that final overdrive tone. As this is the kind of amp that the Origin Effects Analogue Amp Recreation pedals imitate, this is the obvious way to use them.
For all pedals placed upstream, traditional pedal order wisdom applies. Fuzz and wah first, then compressors, drives, modulation, then delay and reverb, finally feeding our RevivalDRIVE in place of a real amp. The only thing we would place after the RevivalDRIVE is a power amp for driving a real cab, or a cabinet simulator for running direct.
Running all your pedals into a slightly overdriven vintage amp sound is a tried-and-tested method. The natural drive and compression of the amp tone can add harmonic complexity to phasers or chorus, and help “glue” delay and reverb sounds together, meaning they never overwhelm the dry signal or sound too separate and disconnected. In fact, having a helping of vintage drive at the end of the chain can give you back some mojo that you might have missed if you’ve tried to do away with amps in the past and found yourself unsatisfied. The RevivalDRIVE stands out in this role because it recreates all the details of how a valve amp responds. All the dynamics you need to hear your other pedals, with enough drive and character to add the necessary magic. Of course, it’ll take those drives and fuzzes just as you expect too!
Example 2 – Studio-inspired signal chain:
As fun as it can be to run all your effects into a driven amp sound, it might not be what you’re after. Lot’s players prefer to separate their signal chain into “before the drive” and “after the drive” effects, and this is actually one of the biggest compromises in guitar rigs. This is why FX loops exist in amps – so you can place drives and boosts before an overdriven preamp section, after which you place reverbs and delays, which can be amplified cleanly by the power amp. But we all know the best overdrive comes from the power amp, right? In a real amp, the power amp must be the last thing in the chain, so pretty much the only way to add effects afterwards is to go in a studio, mic up your amp, and add effects in post. Sure, it’ll sound better than any FX loop ever could, but not something most of us have access to.
This is where something like the RevivalDRIVE really comes in handy. Because it recreates the entire signal path of a vintage valve amp, the sound you get from its output is the sound of proper power amp overdrive – quite possibly more realistic than the overdriven preamp tone from a modern valve amp’s FX send jack!
You can then take the output from your RevivalDRIVE and feed it to all your favourite studio-quality delays and reverbs (and there are plenty to choose from these days). By doing this, you’ve just recreated a studio signal path on your pedal board, which is pretty nifty. Direct rig users can earn extra studio points by running their cabinet simulator before their delay and reverb effects, resulting in a real “miked amp with effects added in post” tone.
Another benefit of this method is that you don’t need two amp simulators to run a stereo rig. Just place the stereo effects after your RevivalDRIVE and hook it up to a stereo power amp or a pair of channels on your mixer. This is the same approach taken in those lovely big rack rigs of the late 1980s, except they used a real amp hooked up to dummy load, with its line output feeding a wall of rack FX processors. Now we have it all on a pedalboard. Mad.
Example 3 – I’m keeping my amp, I just want an extra channel:
Okay, so you might not want to get rid of your amp altogether, but perhaps you like to run your amp clean and get your drive from pedals. Or maybe you often use house backline and don’t want to rely on the amp for your tone when you never know which amp you’ll get. Again, the RevivalDRIVE – and our other Analogue Amp Recreation pedals – can help.
Although the RevivalDRIVE is an analogue amp simulator, its Post-Drive EQ controls allow that authentic amp tone to work into a real amp too. Essentially, this Post-Drive filter works to “cancel out” the tone-shaping that’s being done in your amp’s preamp, so that you don’t have to compromise your clean tone to flatter your drive sound or vice versa. When you turn on the RevivalDRIVE, the voicing of your amp disappears and it’s more like you just switched to a different amp!
It’s a very convincing way to add a “second channel” to your amp, whether it be for lead, heavier rhythm or just a different flavour of clean tone as you move through genres during your set. Even if you’re not a big pedal user, you can still add to your palette of amp tones simply by plonking one of these pedals on the floor, in front of any clean combo. It’s a lot easier than bringing another amp.
Even when pairing the RevivalDRIVE with a real amp, all the considerations in examples 1 and 2 still apply. If you like your tones traditional, put it at the end of the chain, last thing before the amp. If you prefer things clear and controlled, place it ahead of your delays and reverbs and let your clean amp do the heavy lifting. You can still boost the RevivalDRIVE with your favourite drive pedals for extra breakup, and it won’t mess with the clarity of your ambient effects.
Whether you’re trying to get the perfect vintage tone without bursting eardrums, recreating the slickest studio signal chain imaginable, or simply adding another flavour of amp tone to a plain ol’ rig, the answer might just be in where you put your pedals.