There is no such thing as transparent overdrive. Change my mind

Earlier, I was listening to a description regarding an overdrive pedal for guitar… however, I’ve seen and heard similar language about microphones, preamps, etc.

“… overdrive, meant to enhance your overall sound without coloring your tone. Adding harmonic midrange richness, boosting your low and high-end frequencies all while giving you more available headroom.”

So if I add “harmonic richness” and boost both low AND high-end, isn’t that by it’s very definition COLORING MY TONE?!?

I see so many companies and users of pedals, preamps, etc describe products like these as “transparent”, and they simply are not. If they were transparent, I can guarantee the majority of users wouldn’t like them. They would find it to be muddy and largely unusable.

Mostly I’m just venting :stuck_out_tongue:

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wouldnt that just be en electric guitar that is “unplugged”?? just by simply plugging in you are already coloring lol so in a way yes there is no transparency. But i assumed that the entire guitar amp market is based off of coloring the tone. But color has different meanings to everyone so who knows

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I have never found anything that sounds good to me. The only sound that i like is the one someone else has. Like Bob…ha ha

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Haha! True!
But even outside of the electric guitar world, I’ve seen/heard similar language about mic preamps, compressors, etc.

Yep! It’s like cooking and food maybe. Raw celery is good for you, but who wants it??? Add some spicy dip for it and Voilà, it might be tasty stuff (though I don’t care for celery at all, I think it’s the texture). The reason guitarists like tube amps is the saturation, tube overdrive, and distortion in many cases - even though it’s “old tech” compared to solid state tech. So it’s not a pure transparent sound to begin with, even on the Clean channel IMO.

You probably remember on RR back in the early 2010’s we used to talk about expensive gear and all the claims and flowery language. It’s meant to sell product by appealing to emotions and G.A.S., and has no ability to truly explain itself. Specifications might have some meaning and some guidance, possibly more objective, but the true test is how does it sound to you. We don’t usually buy clothes and shoes by the specs alone, we try them on for size! “If the shoe fits, wear it.” :grin:

No, I won’t change your mind, Bryan… I agree “transparent” is a stupid word to use regarding overdrive pedals… as you imply, it is a total oxymoron.

However, after seeing many YT videos where the term has been used liberally, it’s my understanding that it refers, not to the character of the distortion or saturation, but specifically to the overall equalisation curve that the overdrive imparts when it is put in the chain.

For example, a Tube Screamer style pedal is deemed to be one of the least “transparent” overdrives due to the fact that it puts in a fairly drastic high pass filter and a large bump in the midrange. Obviously, most overdrives have some sort of eq controls, but “non-transparent” drives tend to impart whatever eq curve they are known for regardless of where the tone controls are set.

For me personally, I really dislike TS-style overdrives. My Vox Big Ben manages to keep the original eq curve fairly well intact, unless I decide to radically adjust the eq controls on the pedal.

…so no, I won’t try to change your mind at all!

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that is a good thing I think…no one should mess with the eq curves of a music producer :smiling_imp:

but are regular(non producer level) guitar players actually shopping for this kind of statistic? or are they simply going for the sound they like?

“If it sounds good, it is good.”

       - Duke Ellington

The “theory” of transparency on an overdrive is specious. I have a Fulltone that adds 25 DH to the signal. Let’s presume it doesn’t change the tonal balance of the guitar. By hitting the front end of your amp that hard, you are certainly compressing the signal in the preamp stage, and your output tubes are getting a workout. It’s close to just turning the amp up with the convenience of a foot switch if you don’t have someone mixing you live that knows the cues.
I really think the marketing angle is to find a way to sell a pedal to someone who already likes their tone without pedals. If it was truly transparent, how would you know if it was even on?
Add to that by realizing our hearing changes at different volumes, and you’ll realize transparency is a vague statement of a questionable benefit. I like stomping on the Fulltone to make a solo jump out a bit, but transparency does not desciribe it.

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Who knows? One man’s meat is another’s poison. Guitar tone preference is as individual as the guitarist.

The trap many less experienced guitarists fall into (and I include myself in that category for a long period) is thinking that equipment is the sole answer to great tone.

At a certain point your skill, technique level, and style coalesce to the point where you pretty much sound like yourself no matter what you play through.

In my case, at that point I was finally able to settle on a signal chain that was the most comfortable and flattering for my style.

is that the style I heard in the lead guitar for Disconnected? I really liked the silky tone of it so I left it mostly alone. At first I thought that was Bob’s lead but later realized it was yours. Yeah, I wouldnt change that, it works for you!

Most guitar players don’t equate eq curves with the sound they are trying to make. It is generally a trial and error of knob turning until you get close, but never quite what you want from your tone. Overdrive pedals are not meant to be as pronounced effect as a distortion pedal, which will definitely add a footprint in the signal chain. It is more like turning the gain up on a great analog channel on a console, where the first hint of distortion is an integral part of the sound of that board. For instance, people rave about the sound of a Neve console, but if a console could be perfect, it really shouldn’t impart any sound of its own to the signal.
Overdrives are meant to just boost the signal to the input of the guitar amp. From there whatever happens is a function of how the amp responds to a higher input signal, and how that also affects the output stage.
With all that said, 95% of it is in your hands. Not much different from working on your embouchure on a woodwind. If you aren’t properly connected to the instrument a pedal won’t fix it.


Yes that’s it exactly :+1:

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Oh boy! We can get really nerdy with this…

I suppose it depends how you use them to a degree…I always think of boost pedals (which basically boost level without any saturation) more in this role, but of course, you can do almost the same thing with an overdrive if you turn down the gain and crank up the output. As in recording, gain staging has a massive effect on how you configure things, and the results you get.

What I’ve found works for me is to set my amp to a gain setting where it breaks up when I dig in hard or switch to a higher output pickup, but also cleans up when I lighten up my touch and switch to a lower output pickup. I consider this my “clean” channel (even though it can get quite dirty).

I then set my overdrive so that it doesn’t really jump up in volume much when I switch it on (maybe just a tad). This is my “core” rock tone.

If I then want a level boost for solos live, the Mesa has a secondary foot-switchable volume level that can be set at the amp. If I need even more gain and sustain, I can boost the level into the OD using another pedal, or even a distortion if I want Gary Moore levels of gain. If I want to clean it up a bit, I can roll back my guitar’s volume control (and compensate for the output volume loss by switching my amp’s aforementioned output solo boost).

It’s a pretty flexible set-up. Add to that the other totally clean channel of my amp, and I can call up really spanky clean tones if I need to. (I mostly prefer a at least a bit of dirt).

It took me literally decades and buying and selling a lot of different equipment to arrive at this setup, but the thing I love about it is that it just works for pretty much any situation

Great analogy! Yes yes yes - I totally agree!

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[quote=“ColdRoomStudio, post:14, topic:6318”]
It took me literally decades and buying and selling a lot of different equipment to arrive at this setup, but the thing I love about it is that it just works for pretty much any situation
And now the bumbling hackers like me can reap the benefits of your extensive labor. This thread is a great example of the real meaning of this forum. thks