F.A.Q. University    (updated June 23.2011)

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Now, for all newbies (and not so newbies) ask and learn the answers to your most often asked questions at F. A. Q. UNIVERSITY.have a technical question that isn't covered here? Drop us an email & we'll do our best to answer here!

 

Q1. I have a "strat" style guitar with 3 "skinny"pickups that sound okay when I play clean on my amp, but when I turn on the distortion, I get a really loud, annoying hum in the background that sounds like a "broken ground wire" or something. Why does it only hum with the distortion on?

A1. That hum is coming from your pickups. Because of their design, single coil(skinny) pickups are more susceptible to "picking up" just about any kind of noise in the immediate playing area(from fluoresecent lights, dimmers, even amplifier transformers). If your guitar has a five position pickup selector, set it at position #2(second from bottom)The hum should "disappear"(also in position #4)because the combined pickup signals are "out of phase" , cancelling a lot of the 60cycle hum. The reason you're hearing more of it when the distortion is switched on, is because of the large increase in gain, which makes the amp "exagerate" any little bit hum that you normally wouldn't hear when the amp is in clean(no distortion boost)mode. To conquer the hum problem, you might want to look into hum-cancelling type pickups or at the very least, some type of noise gate. noise reduction pedal. ^top^

 

Q2. I'm looking to buy a new bassamp. One i've seen has an unbalanced output and another amp has a balanced output. Is there a difference or advantage to either of these amps?

A2. On the first amp. the unbalanced output is another way of saying "line output" This line output will allow you to run a (guitar)cable and "send" your bass guitar signal into another amp, recording deck or P. A. mixer. Some unbalanced line outs are wired internally from the amp's master volume control, others are wired from the preamp gain. Usually an amp's "block" diagaram(many times in the operation manual)will show you. You have to remember, if you turn up midway during the evening's performance, you're probably boost -ing the signal going back to the mixer(check to make sure). Most unbalanced line outs are high impedance, which means you're limited to less than about 30feet of connecting cable. In the case of the bassamp with a balanced output, its like having a better quality D. I. box built-in. Some balanced outputs use a 3pin connector, in which case you'd use a lo-z mike cable with it. Other times, a balanced output will use a TRS(tip-ring-sleeve) connector(usually to save space)which looks(internally)like a stereo headphone jack. Again, check to make sure. Balanced line outs are lo-z types so, you could run much longer mike cables, without signal loss or interference. Also, lo-z outputs are less prone to noise and interference compared to hi-z cable runs. ^top^

 

Q3. I got a speaker from a friend that has no polarity( + or -) marked on it. How can I tell which terminal is which?

A3. Easy one. Take a (good)flashlight battery. Sit the bottom end(the negative/minus-end) of the battery on one of the speaker's terminals(doesn't matter which one). Now take a short piece of wire and tape it(or solder is better)to the positive (+) top of the battery. Now, take the the other end of the wire and touch the remaining terminal on the speaker and take a close look at the speaker's cone. If the cone moves forward(outward), then the terminal that has the positive wire touching it, is the (+)terminal(mark it !). If the cone moves inward(towards the magnet), reverse the battery connections, redo the test to make sure, and mark only the positive(+) terminal. That's it! ^top^

Q4. We just got a pa mixer that has lo-impedance (lo-z) and high impedance (hi-z) microphone inputs. What the difference between lo-z and hi-z mikes? Is there any advantage with going with one over the other?

A4. Hi impedance mikes are designed to run with a cable length of less than 30 feet. Because of the mike (and cable's) construction, running any cable length more than 30' would result in a loss of high frequencies as well as signal strength being affected. High impedance cables are also more prone to interference (from light dimmers, cb's, etc) . Again, because of their design, low impedance mikes (and lo-z cables) can allow you to run (in theory) up to 300 feet (!) with- out affecting the tone, signal level, and more resistant to noise & interference. In earlier days, there was a huge difference in price between cheaply produced hi-z mikes and costlier to produce (better quality) lo-z mikes, not to mention the different versions of the p. a. mixers for each. Nowadays, the price difference is minimal between the two, so there's really no reason not to go with a lo-z setup. Having said that, here's where some frequent confusion enters the picture. Many times, you'll see a lo-z mike connected to a p. a. with a hi-z cable. How can you tell the difference? The lo-z cable has an end connector with 3 male pins (arranged in a half-moon pattern) sometimes called an "XLR" or "Cannon". The hi-z cable will have an end connector that looks the same as the one on your guitar cables, sometimes called a "1/4 inch " connector or "phone plug". A lo-z mike will work with a hi-z cable, not at it's best, but it will work, nonetheless. It usually means you'll have to turn up the gain at the mixer to make up for some of the signal loss due to the "mismatch". The correct way to use a lo-z mike into a hi-z imput (like a guitar amp or cassette deck, for example) would be to use a lo-z (3pin) mike cable and connect an inline impedance matching transformer. This normally looks like a cylinder with an female xlr connector on one end and a 1/4 inch male phone plug at the other. Inside the cylinder lurks a little transformer that converts the lo-z mike's imped- ance and boosts it's lower output signal up to more easily operate into the hi-z mike input. You rarely see hi-z mikes plugged into a lo-z mike input. The mismatch between the two is so severe, it usually results in a distorted (not the good kind) , muddy sound. ^top^

 

Q5. What's the big deal about plugging into the fx loop jacks on an amp? Isn't it the same thing as plugging in the "regular" way, from the guitar, to the fx and then out to the amp?

A5. Not if you happen to be using a chorus, flanger, delay, phaser or similiar type of fx processor (pedal or rack style) . Let's say you connect your chorus (and/or delay) , the "regular" way and then, you use the overdrive (aka dirty) channel on your amp. What happens is, the normally clean (undistorted) output from the chorus gets "mangled" by the dirty channel. As well the normally full range response of the chorus gets "narrowed" considerably by the amp's tone control settings. Assuming the average pedal has at least a little bit of hiss & noise in it's design, the distortion channel will only exagerate this problem, usually muddying up the tone, resulting in a loss of clarity. What's going on here, is you're distorting the chorus (or delay) sound. Not the best way of doing it. Now, lets say we hook up the amp's fx send jack to the chorus pedal's input and the pedal's output to the fx return jack. Plug your guitar into the amp's input (like you did in the old days before pedals came along) . Using this method has the advantage of now running your guitar signal thru the amp's preamp, tone controls and distortion before going to the chorus pedal (to be processed) without adding the hiss & noise from the chorus pedal back into the preamp (to be blown out of proportion) . Another benefit is, the signal level from the fx send jack tends to be a little higher (with fewer losses) driving the fx pedal with a better quality signal. Why? Simply because an fx loop circuit is less "fussy" about different types of fx units, than the interaction between a guitar, the amp's input and an fx pedal plugged in the "regular" way. By using the fx loop, you're not re-amplifying a lot of fx pedal noise either, since the output of the fx pedal now goes "straight" into the power amp section. Using this method, you'll likely find the chorus'd sound a lot richer, mostly because chorus units "like" lots of (distorted) harmonics. If you're using a delay (or flanger) the overall fx tone will be clearer also. So here's two quick ways to remember what the "deal" is with fx pedals & fx loops: 1. The regular way: clean (from a chorus) into distorted signal=not so good results 2. FX loop way :dirty (from a preamp) into clean fx pedal = better overall tone. ^top^

Q6. I have a muli-fx pedal connected to my amp's fx loop jacks. Whenever I turn on any effect, the volume seems to jump up. How do I adjust this?

A6. Assuming you want the volume to stay the same from effect to effect (no large amounts of boosting) this is how you'd do it. First, make sure the fx unit is bypassed (off-no fx) . Now set your amp's gain & volume how you normally would. Start strumming a chord (a barre chord helps) . Here's the "trick". Turn the fx on (from bypass mode) . If the fx pedal has a regular (rotary) output level control, adjust it (keep strumming in between!) so that when you switch between the fx in mode and the fx out (bypass) mode, there is NO difference in volume level. You'll probably have to repeat this several times. If it's a programmable fx pedal, you'll have to set the level for each program, using the same method. The reason you'd use a clean strumming pattern to set the levels is, if you try setting it with all the overdrive/distortion on, it makes it harder to get an accurate idea of what the actual volume is. Distortion can "fool" your ears into thinking it's louder than it actually is. Here's the "slightly trickier" part. If your fx pedal has adjustable input level as well as output level, you would first adjust the input level first to make sure your sending the best (cleanest) guitar signal to the fx unit's pre-amp section (just barely making the clip light blink with hard playing) . Once you've done that, THEN you'd adjust the output level like shown above. ^top^

 

Q7. I saw "F-spacing" on a pickup box. What's that?

A7. F-spacing means the polepieces are spaced a little wider than on a regular pickup, to better match up (align) the strings on a guitar that's equipped with a Floyd Rose Vibrato Bridge. Floyd's bridges spread the strings a little wider apart than a standard bridge. ^top^

Q8. Which is a louder speaker? 4, 8 or 16ohms?

A8. Hear this one a lot. Actually if they're all the same model and the amp's output impedance is matched to any of these, they will all have the same loudness (volume level) . Where many people get the impression that one (4 ohm) is louder than a (16 ohm) is when dealing with solid-state (transistorized) amps. Most SS amps are designed to operate efficiently with a speaker load between approx. 4 to 8 ohms, delivering a little less output into 8 ohms than 4 ohms and almost half into a 16 ohm load (speaker) . Most SS amps rate their output power (as an example) at 100 watts into 4 ohms. This would work out to about 60 watts into 8 ohms and would be about 25 watts into 16 ohms. If you were using a 4 ohm speaker, it's not that the speaker is actually louder, it's because the amp is actually delivering more output power to the 4 ohm speaker than it would to the 8 or 16. There's less power from the amp being "wasted" so to speak. This only applies to SS amps since tube amps have an output transformer that matches the output power to the different speaker impedances, so a tube amp can normally deliver it's full output to any speaker connected to it, regardless of impedance. ^top^

 

Q9. What's the difference between nickel wound electric strings and stainless steels?

A9. Tone-wise, nickel strings tend to sound more like the "vintage" tone whereas stainless steels have a more pronounced upper (treble) frequency range. They could also be a good choice if you wanted to get a little more "bite" from a humbucker (LesPaul, SG) pickup equipped guitar. Stainless steels also tend to resist corrosion from sweat a little better so they'd tend to last a little longer, if you go through strings quickly. If you do decide to put on a set of stainless steels, you'd be wise to turn back your amp's tone controls and re-adjust them accordingly to allow for the difference in tone. ^top^

Q10. When I use my distortion pedal connected to my amp's fx loop jacks, my amp squeals like crazy. Isn't the fx loop where I'm supposed to connect my pedal? What's going on?

A10. Most fx loops are designed to handle fairly consistent signal (guitar) levels like those from a chorus, delay, flanger but NOT an fx unit that boosts (raises) the signal level a huge amount (typically an overdrive, distortion, fuzz type of unit) . In more detail, here's why. When you amplify a (guitar) signal, the amount of amplification is referred to as GAIN. This "gain" is usually determined by multiplying (NO ADDITION HERE!) the individual gains of the several preamp sections (either in an amp or overdrive/distortion pedal) . For example, let's say your amp's preamp section has a total "gain of 2500" before it gets to the power amp section (the parts that literally pump the speakers) . Now you connect your mega-distortion pedal in the fx loop (between the preamp & poweramp section) . Let's say your pedal has a "gain of 50". Multiply 2500 x 50, you get a (insanely huge!) gain of 125, 000! Not good for an fx loop that's probably designed to handle a gain of (possibly) 10!. That explains why your amp goes hysterical. You'll notice flangers, chorus, delays and the like don't have "huge" amounts of built in, because their purpose is NOT to overdrive the original guitar signal. ^top^

Q11. I have a chrome steel snare drum. Is there any way to cut down the amount of ring and overtones?

A11. There's a couple of things you can try. Take the batter (top) head off and run a length of fabric (carpet) tape around the middle third section on the inner shell. Another trick would be to install a foam E-ring onto the underside of the batter. Quite a few manufacturers make these donut looking dampers. If you're using a white or clear batter head, you might want to try a PinStripe style head. These have oil-filled outer ring that attenuates (reduces) some more of that ring. If you want to dampen even more of that, try using an Evans Hydraulic series drum head. These have a layer of oil, spread over the entire head to substantially kill off that annoying clanging tone. ^top^

 

Q12. I keep breaking my D string at the same spot, near the bridge, on my acoustic guitar. Is there something i can do to fix this problem?

A12. You'll have to take a REALLY close look at the saddle where that D string crosses over. Most of the time, you need a magnifying glass to see what looks like a little bit of a jagged edge (from the string digging into the saddle after a while or because it left the factory that way) . Take a strip of sandpaper (#320 to 400 will work fine) and smooth over the sharp ridge. Be careful not to flatten it out completely. ^top^

Q13. My amp doesn't have a headphone jack for practicing in my room. Can't I just plug my headphones into the speaker jack (amp output) instead?

A13. Not unless you want to melt down your headphones (not to mention your eardrums) . The output level (big watts!) from the average guitar amp will easily destroy headphones which are designed to handle only a fraction (tiny watts!) of that power. You can solve the situation though by installing a "headphone tap" (model #pm52) by Rolls. This little unit hooks up between the amp's output & speaker to allow headphones to be used at a safe level without destroying anything in the process. ^top^

Q14. I recently heard a pro guitarist talking "geartalk" about his "wet" sound and his "dry" sound. What the heck was he talking about?

A14. Most guitarists refer to their "processed" sound (usually with fx) as their wet sound and their unprocessed sound as their dry (unaltered) sound. Many guitarists spend a lot of time trying to get a good balance between the two. ^top^

Q15. Whenever I tune my guitar, i can a hear a 'tink, tink, tink sound coming from somewhere around the headstock. What's going on?

A15. Sounds likely that a string is getting "binded" (pinched) in one of the string slots in the fingerboard nut, because the slot a little too tight. Loosen and lift the string out of the slot. Now fold in two a small strip of #400 sandpaper and pass it a couple of times through the slot to slightly widen. After you're done, you can also rub a little graphite, courtesy of a #2 soft leaded pencil in the slot to help the string from "sticking". ^top^

 

Q16. My "round-back" guitar doesn't seem to project enough bass response, making it sound almost "tinny". Is there anything I can do to "boost" it's bass without having to modify it?

A16. The design of these guitars (the round-back material) actually emphasizes more upper midrange frequencies. Normally, in all wood guitar, a lot of these upper midrange freqencies get "absorbed" making the all wood guitar sound less tinny giving the listener the impression there's more bass than a round back. There is, however, something you can try that helps get more bass (and you won't have to mangle your guitar) . First, check to see if your guitar is strung with bronze or brass type strings (easily identified by their yellow colour) . This string type tends to emphasize a lot of "that tinny sound" Put on a set of PHOSPHOR bronze type strings (they look a little more orange/brown in colour, like copper) . I usually use D'addario ej26, ej16 or if your guitar's action can handle it, ej19bluegrass (this set is designed with slightly thicker basses to push the low end more) . You can also try a set of strings known as Silk & Steel, such as GHS 350, with the trade-off being lower overall volume and shorter string life, but you get a mellower guitar tone. Short of heavily modifying your guitar, the tips listed are the easiest to try. Considering that the general idea behind the majority of these guitars is that they're "plugged in" most of the time and "equalized" accordingly, it's not surprising to see that very few of them are sold or available without a pickup of some type. ^top^

 

Q17. How long should strings last? (how can I make my strings last longer?)

A17. There's several related (long) answers to this one. It depends on a bunch of factors like how much you perspire (sweat!) while you're playing. Some players just happen to leave more perspiration "clinging" onto to their strings than other players during and after play. This perspiration can contain a mix of salts & acids that just love to stick to and eat away at strings (think of what road salt does to your car's rocker panels during a typical Canadian winter-not pretty!) . If you're a "heavy sweater", you can help your strings last longer by washing your hands before playing for an extended time and then wiping them down thorougly after playing. This is especially effective with acoustic strings that seem to tarnish faster than electrics. It also depends on the material the strings are made of. For acoustic (box) guitar, brass or bronze strings, I've found, tend to tarnish faster and lose their brightness quicker (many players, however like this, assuming the strings are now "broken in", now having lost that "tinny sounding edge" and mellowing out) than Phosphor Bronze types that seem to be more resistant. For electric guitar, nickel strings have a tendency to "corrode" faster and "smooth out" their tone after some playing (again, a lot of players liike this-different strokes for different folk!) than their Stainless Steel versions. It also can depend on your regional environment (no kidding-get your atlas out!) . If you live on the west coast near salt water, nickel will degrade quicker than in the midwest, for example (another reason chrome plating everything is so big in California?) . Strings will tend to last longer if you live in the countryside, where the air is usually much cleaner, than if you happen to live downwind from SmogSwill Industries' smokestacks near an industrial park. Strings will tend to corrode at a faster rate during the hot, humid days of summer than in the drier, lower humidity home climate of the average winter. Another factor to consider is your playing style. A player's guitar equipped with a Floyd Rose (or similiar) vibrato (aka whammy bar) that gets used regularly will tend to "deaden" strings faster than a Les Paul type. An aggressive "take no prisoners" acoustic player will "kill" a set faster than a mellow-jellow fingerpickin' folkie type player as well. Considering how little a set of decent strings costs (considering the abuse they go through!) , I'm amazed they don't get changed more often (they really should!) . Okay, so when should you replace strings? Usually when you can't seem to get them in tune anymore (assuming there's nothing wrong with the guitar itself) . Clues here would be tuning up like normal, then barre chords sounding more & more out of tune as you go up the fretboard. Chords don't sound "balanced" any more, sounding muddy or the guitar refusing to stay in tune after a few minutes of playing. Visually, it's time to replace strings on acoustics when the shiny bright string colour has dulled or is severely "streaked". You'll also spot tiny "nicks" in the string's wrap right above where it contacts the fret. On electrics, the plain strings have lost their "shiny mirror" look and appear more black than silver. Also if you find yourself replacing individual strings, one after another, time to replace the WHOLE set. A "general" of thumb. If you're playing an average of an hour a day (instead of playing every weekend in a smoky club or 12 hour recording sessions) is to change strings every 2 (maybe 3) months (4 is pushing your luck!) What about BASS GUITAR STRINGS? Their larger diameters help to resist the above factors for longer BUT they don't last forever either. When bass strings start to bite the bullet, they'll start sounding "wooly", they'll lose their punch, individual notes won't have the "edge" or cutting tone they once had. As you play a run up the neck, it'll sound like it's drifting out of tune. Ballpark lifespan for bass strings is about 6-9months (or slightly less). ^top^

Q18. My friend ran his cd player (with a Y-cord) into the second input jack on his guitar amp so he could practice. Now his amp won't play clean, even with the distortion button turned off. What gives?

A18. There's a pretty good possibility that your friend has damaged components of his amp by putting the cd player into it. Most guitar amps are designed to handle the relatively low-level signal from a guitar, building it up in their pre-amp section (with a large dose of gain) to drive the amps's output section (and speaker) However, most cd players can easily put out SUBSTIALLY more signal than the average guitar pickup, surpassing the amp's "required" input level to operate properly (think of it as driving a freight train through your front door) . A definite no-no. Time to visit the repair shop and cross your fingers! ^top^

Q19. When I plug my guitar and a mike into both jacks on my (insert brand name here) guitar amp, I either get uncontrollable feeback and/or a really dirty. muddy sound. What gives?

A19. This one gets asked a lot. The problem comes from the fact that you're plugging into a SINGLE CHANNEL amp. There's a little confusion in the marketplace about amps with TWO input jacks on them. Unless it's an amp with two separate channels (preferably each one designed for two different uses) like a keyboard/percussion or acoustic & electric or mike amp, MOST single channel amps with two input jacks are actually still single input (one instrument only, plugged in a time) amps. These two jacks are normally "tied" together (inside the amp) with perhaps a resistor wired between them. These two jacks then feed a COMMON input section of the pre-amp. Unless you have an amp with "artificial intelligence" (not yet!) , most "dumb" amps aren't smart enough to know the difference bet -ween a guitar signal, mike signal, smoke signal, etc. Where the resulting "dirty, muddy sound" is usually from the pre-amp section trying it's darndest to differentiate the combined complex frequencies from the guitar & mike at the same time and retain their individual character (tricky for the average guitar amp, in the very least!) . Another factor is the preamp section dealing with the difference in signal level between the guitar & the mike (known as a level mismatch) and the difference in impedance between these two (known as an impedance mismatch) at the same time. This impedance mismatch usually causes an effect called "loading" (as in loading down the input) . In this case, loading is what causes the "muddy sound". The combined signal level is normally what causes the "dirty" sound (not to mention the feeback caused from the preamp trying to boost both levels, at the same time) . Why then, do most have amps have TWO input jacks if you're not "allowed" to plug in to both at the same time?. Having two jacks is a bit of a "holdover" from the good old days when it wasn't unusual to have two "cash-strapped" guitar pickers "sharing" an amp for their first couple of gigs or a single guitarist that happened to have a humbucker (high output) equipped guitar AND a single-coil (much lower level) equipped guitar that he needed to be able to "match up" fairly quickly when switching between guitars on a gig. Remember "the resistor between the jacks" I mentioned eartlier? The purpose of the resistor on one of the jacks was to actually "lower" the gain a little bit to reduce the level of a humbucker (remember this was in the cleanee-weenie days before massive distortion was desirable!) . The amp's other jack was to allow the single-coil guitar's full output to compete by not redcing it's level. This is essentially the reasoning back then, between HI and LOW (sensitivity) inputs on amps of that era. Why are they still there today? In a nutshell-marketing. "Give 'em TWO jacks! TWO jacks is better than ONE jack, right?" ^top^

Q20. What does "floating bridge" mean and how do I know If I have one?

A20. Floating bridge normally refers to a Floyd Rose (or similiar) vibrato assembly (whammy) that's adjusted up slightly, to "float" over the guitar body, allowing the player to not only bend pitch down, but also upwards. Normally most Strat-style bridges can only bend pitch downwards and are set to rest flat against the guitar body when not in use, whereas Floyd-style bridges are left to "float" and bend in both directions. If you go from playing a Strat -style guitar to a Floyd equipped guitar-it does take some getting used to. Having your hand resting against a "floating bridge" while playing can exert a slight shift in the guitar's pitch which will need some compensation on the player's part to reduce this side-effect. ^top^

Q21. What does the "intonation" on a guitar mean?

A21. Most guitar fretboards are based on slightly inaccurate measurements (yikes!) and calculations that have been (unfortunately) accepted as a standard/compromise which essentially means the instrument will sound "slightly" out-of tune with itself across the fingerboard. To overcome (as much as possible) this quirk, a method of adjusting the saddles (and bridge) is performed to compensate for this quirk and make the guitar play "in tune" as accurately as can be expected. Intonation that isn't adjusted properly will show up more on an electric (especially with the distortion on) because the strings will bend easier, and the additional distortion tends to exagerate the "tuning errors" more than a clean sounding acoustic guitar with high tension strings. On acoustic guitars, this "tuning error" is usually corrected by a "compensated saddle" which has the crown of the saddle shifted slightly (especially the B-string) to help. It's worth noting that as your strings start "going dead", your guitar's intonation goes out-the-window!. So if you find your guitar doesn't sound "right", try to remember the last time you installed a new set! ^top^

Q22. What's the difference between "echo, delay, and reverb?"

A22. Easy one. Echo and delay are the same thing (delay's the "tech" term for echo) . Echo/delay is easily identified by this: if you can actually count the individual sounds after the original has sounded, that's echo. If you can't count them because they're so close together you can't make them out as individual sounds, that's reverb. Some examples to make it clearer:when you sing in the shower (and your voice sounds like a million dollars, resonating everywhere) -that's reverb. When you slam the door to the school gym and you hear this booming that fills the room. that's reverb. If you let out a yell somehwere in the mountains and you hear back Hello, Hello, Hello, that's echo. Reverb is actually a type of echo (much quicker) that can't be defined as individual, separate echoes. Rather they're a combo of clashing delays with varying fast attack & delay times. Also you can usually tell when an echo starts and stops. With reverb, it's a little trickier to tell when the reverb has actually started and stopped. Reverb also tends to "bloom" around the original sound and then tapers off. ^top^

 

Q23. What's the difference between these pedals: a pre-amp, booster, overdrive, distortion and fuzz? Don't they all do the same thing?

A23. Yes and no. First, a pre-amp and a booster can be the same thing. A pre-amp pedal can be used to boost your guitar's signal. Depending on how much gain (boost amount) is designed into the the pedal, a pre-amp can overdrive an amp enough to get that distorted, crunch you may be looking for (it's a matter of taste and what your amp's capable of reproducing) . Some pre-amps are just straight full-range with perhaps a little tone control section but the pre-amp itself is not designed to overdrive itself. On the other side of side of the coin, an overdrive pedal IS designed to overdrive itself, sending a distorted (aka clipped) signal into the amp to be amplified even more. In terms of "degrees", you normally have a pre-amp (or boost) , then overdrive (slightly dirty sound) then distortion (more crunch than overdrive) . Variations on this include "metal" type distortion pedals, which are essentially distortion units with a very deep mid "notch" for a bottom heavy guitar tone. Fuzz effects are different also. Assuming an "accurately designed" fuzz, these don't so good when playing chords, with an abrupt decay to chords and a more "jagged" response than distortion pedals in the same situation (think Hendrix and torn speaker cones for what fuzz sounds like) . Again, it's a matter of taste AND a combination of player/guitar/amp. One guy loves it-the next guy hates it! That's what makes life interesting. . . ^top^

Q24. My friend's bass has "active controls" and mine has "passive". My other friend doesn't know what he has. What's the difference and how can we tell one from the other?

A24. I'll answer the last part first. You can tell easily who has active or passive "controls" by looking for a battery (usually a 9volt) tucked away behind a "trapdoor" at the rear of the instrument (some companies hide it in the control compartment) . On an acoustic guitar fitted with a pickup, you may find the battery tucked somewhere's near the neckblock or even as part of the control plate. So if you find a battery anywhere on a guitar, yes, it's active! Now a little more (almost confusing) detail. It's also possible to have active pickups (like emg, for example) where the pickup itself has circuitry inside it, that's powered by a battery. You can have an instrument that has passive (no battery) pickups feeding an "active" (with a battery) controls (actually a pre-amp with the controls as part of the deal) . This would be the equivelent of having a "regular" passive pickup equipped guitar feeding a battery powered pre-amp/booster/equalizer floor pedal unit. ^top^

Q25. I'm confused. I've seen catalogs & guitar players referring to a guitar's "whammy bar" as a "tremelo bar" and a "vibrato bar". Which is which and which one is correct?

A25. Okay, for starters, "whammy bar" is the generic "street name" (i've also heard "wiggle stick, stick shift, bender rod, echo bar to name a few!) for that bent steel rod that either screws or pops into the bridge plate (and block) on a lot of electric guitars. This allows the player to pull down on it (and on some models, upwards) lowering or raising the overall pitch of the strings (kinda of like a pedal steel guitarist does) . The accurate term for it is vibrato (a vibrating change in pitch) unit. The term "tremelo" (meaning a vibrating change in volume) was mistakenly used over the years (and it still kinda stuck there). ^top^

Q26. I just bought a used combo amp that didn't come with a manual. I looked on the back and there's a "pre-out" jack, a "pwr-amp in" jack, as well as a "line out"jack. What the heck are these all for?

A26. A few examples here would make it easier to understand. Let's say you wanted to feed your guitar amp's sound (aka signal) into a larger amp or a p. a system while still being able to run your guitar into your own amp as usual. You would plug into your amp like you always do but now you would also connect a shielded guitar type (not a speaker wire like i've seen on a few occasions!) cable from the "line out" jack to the larger amp's input or the mixer's mike or channel input. Now you would turn up your own amp's master level to where you normally run it then you slowly bring up the larger amp's (or mixer's) level to the desired amount. Voila! It can't be THAT simple, you ask. You're right (it never is!) There's always some kind of trade-off, it seems. If the above setup works for you-great. For those of you who want to know more-read on. . . A few things to check for with the above setup is where the amp's line out signal is taken from (inside the amp) . This will largely determine what your guitar will sound like "going into the board". For the line out jack, some manufacturers tap off from the amp's input jack (very sterile sounding) , others take it just before (or just after) the tone control section, and still others take it from the master control section. For "bands-on-a-budget" who can't afford "spare" mikes or "direct boxes" for getting your guitar into the p. a. -use the line out! For "bands-with-bucks"-a neat trick is to mike up the guitar amp's speakers AND use the line out also. Running both the mike'd and line out signal to separate channels (if you have them to spare!) allows you to equalize them differently, fattening up your stage sound in the process. Want to record yourself on a 4track or cassette deck? Use the line out jack and plug into the deck's line in jack (NOT the mic input, if you can avoid it!) . Another thing regarding bass amps; let's say you DO have a choice between your bassamp's line out jack, a mike, and a direct box (D. I. box) . Leave the mike out of this setup. Unless you're blessed with a verrry nice ($$$$$$$$) large diaphragm mike about the size of a baseball bat, a "regular" vocal/instrument mike just won't make the grade trying to reproduce the bass guitar's low frequencies, accurately or cleanly. The better approach would be to either use the line out to the mixer or the line out to the di box, then from the di box to the board. Try both ways to see which sound YOU like. As a sidenote to listen for. Many times when hooking up from your amp's line out jack to the other

Q27. I have an acoustic (aka box) guitar that I've just recently had installed one of those (transducer type) pickups installed under the saddle. After plugging into several different "practice amps" I find my guitar sounds rather "tinny" and doesn't sound like as nice as when it's not plugged in. Is there something I'm doing wrong or is the pickup a a dud?

A27. Yes & No (that's the short answer!) Here's the "scoop" on why your guitar doesn't sound like it should. First, the majority of "transducer type" pickups (as opposed to the soundhole types) have a VERY HIGH IMPEDANCE (usually several MILLION OHMS) . This is a "byproduct" of their design. Most guitar amps don't "like" this HUGE LOAD connected to their inputs, since their inputs (pre-amps) are designed to handle the relatively lower impedances (aka 'Z") of a magnetic pickup that's on electric guitars. Another reason for the "rather tinny" guitar sound is that most guitar amps are designed so their inputs (pre-amps) are designed to have a little bit of an "edge" to them. As well, the tone control sections (aka treble, mid, bass e. q. ) are designed with some wildly large variations in response as you turn them, usually giving your acoustic-electric MUCH MORE tone boosting than is actually needed. Normally on most guitar amps, there is also a lot of "overlap" between tone controls, making it very frustrating trying to get a "natural" sound out your amp/guitar combi -nation. All is not lost however-read on. . . You can "lower" the impedance of your pickup to make it more compatible with guitar amps by plugging your guitar into an accessory (or pedal type) called a BUFFER or BUFFER-Pre-amp. The purpose of this buffer is to take the VERY HIGH IMPEDANCE of the pickup and convert it (buffering) down to a more manageable impedance that will better "match" any amp's input. This "buffering" will also bring your level up (always nice when you can get it) and will also restore a "proper" balance in the tone of the overall pickup sound (so it won't sound "tinny") . Another solution that frequently works, even when you do have a buffered pre-amp (either in pedal form or installed on-board as part of your guitar) and it still sounds too "tinny" (aka bright) for your liking; plug your guitar into a bassamp. Why a bassamp? Because a bassamp is designed to be much smoother sounding than a guitar amp. A bassamp's tone controls' frequency points are selected to be lower (giving your guitar a "warmer" tone) with a more "regulated" response between them, so it's not a nightmare trying to dial in a decent sound. Short of "blowing the budget" and getting either a dedicated fullrange (keyboard) or acoustic- electro-amp, these are the easiest options to try. Check 'em out! ^top^

Q28. What does a "two-way bass guitar cab" mean and what does a "three-way P. A system" mean?

A28. Finally, a couple of easy ones! A two-way bass guitar cab is a speaker cabinet that usually has a low frequency driver (aka woofer) or two, AS WELL AS an additional driver (either a smaller diameter mid-range or bullet tweeter) set up to extend the range and handle more upper frequencies than you'd normally hear from just a woofer by itself. Typical 2-way cabs can have an 18"woofer with a 10" mid, or a 15"woofer with a 4"bullet tweeter. A 3-way P. A. system is usually "split" three ways, either by the use of an active crossover, which takes the signal (sound) from the mixer, "divides" that signal into three separate signals. These three distinct signals are sent to (normally) three separate power amplifiers. The resulting amplified sound is now sent to three separate speaker units. The low frequencies are sent to the low-end cabinets, the middle frequencies are sent to the mid-range cabinets, and the upper frequncies are sent to the horn units. ^top^

Q29. My friend says the tubes in my tube amp are "microphonic" . What does that mean?

A29. When an amp's tubes are microphonic, it means they're starting to "act up";sometimes emitting odd little noises, crackles, frequently "pops", as well as "ringing" type sounds, even when you stop playing!. It's a sign it's time to replace them. You can easily check which "ones" are actually "microphonic" by pulling the chassis from the cab (carefully-amd make sure it's unplugged when you do this!) . Now if you're "comfortable" around an open chassis (don't go sticking a screwdriver or your fingers inside anywheres around the powersupply) go ahead and plug the amp back in, as well as the speaker (very important!) , plug your guitar back in and put aside. Now, with the amp on and the controls set normally where they are, tap (not hammer!) each pre-amp tube (these are the smaller ones of the bunch like 12ax7 or ecc83) gently with the PLASTIC end of a pen or small wooden dowel. It's normal to hear a slight "tik" sound when you tap a good tube. If however, you reach a tube that emits a vicious snap, crackle, pop, whistling or frying hash/steam type of sound when you tap it (it sounds like a microphone -get it?) chances are, you've got "the culprit!" Some microphonic tubes even make a very unique "bong"bell-like sound that doesn't stop, immediately after you tap 'em. Change them. Generally, I run across more pre-amp tubes (the little tubes) that are microphonic than power- output tubes (the big ones) . At one time (in yesteryears!) pretty well every manufacturer made good tubes that were very good quality, 90% of the time. Nowadays, I have to "sift through" more of them than I ever did, finding something that will do the job properly. In the good 'ole days, a set of pre-amp tubes would literally last years (and years!) before they would give up the ghost. Today's higher gain (and higher voltage) designs demand much from pre-amp tubes than ever, so you're lucky to get a year of optimum performance from a set. ^top^

Q30. Can I play my electric guitar in a bass amp? Can I play my bass guitar in a guitar amp?

A30. You can play your electric guitar thru a bassamp. You might not like the sound though. A bassamp is designed to reproduce more of the low end that a bass guitar puts out AND do this as cleanly as possible. Also the tone controls are designed to respond & emphasize the lower bass notes of a bass guitar not an electric guitar. So if it sounds oddly unbalanced or clean & dry sounding with your electric guitar that's essentially why. Now, answer to the second question. A pretty definite no. For the same reasons about the tone control's designed to respond to the electric guitar's frequency range, the tendency is to over emphasize the tone on the guitar amp trying to get a good, solid bass and getting a pretty ratty sound in the process. As well, the bass's lower frequencies can easily overdrive (aka clip) the guitar amp's (already highly sensitive) pre-amp section, giving you more dirt (more than you'd probably like for bass, anyway!) . Also, most guitar amp's speakers aren't designed to handle a bass's lower frequencies (especially at higher volume levels!) . The speaker cabinet on most guitar amps is either open backed (like on combo's) or ported & tuned differently than bassmap's are. Playing bass guitar (depending on the volume level involved) thru a guitar amp usually results in a "seized" speaker (not good!) or a heavily distorted (not the good kind) kazoo like tone from the speaker OR a combination of blown fuzes/ouput transistors (because the guitar amp's power supply is designed to handle lighter loads of stress compared to the high current demands made by bass heavy signals). ^top^

Q31. Can I use "regular" (aka bronze) box guitar strings on my classical guitar?

A31. Yikes! No-candu! A classical guitar's relatively lighter construction (top, braces, bridge and neck) is simply not designed to withstand the much higher tension/stress produced by strings designed for a regular (aka flattop, regular, box, acoustic) guitar. The amount of "pull" produced by a set of these strings will eventually destroy that classical, often by any of the following; peeling the bridge off of the top (taking part of the top with it) , shearing the top section of the bridge itself off (smacking you in the face in the process-to remind you shouldn't have done it!) , "popping"the braces (you won't know till it's too late) and "buckling"the top and or pulling the neck into a rather dramatic amount of warp. All things you can avoid by just sticking with a friendlier set of nylon guaged strings. ^top^

Q32. What does a compressor pedal do? What does a sustainer pedal do? What's the difference?

A32. Actually, there isn't any difference. They both do the same thing. So what is that? Let's see. . . Normally, when you pluck (or pick) a note on a guitar, you hear that initial tone, then the note's volume levels off, then gradually fades away over a span of time (either in seconds or fractions of a second known as milliseconds) . With your guitar plugged into the compressor, you can set the pedal's decay (sustain) rate so it seems like that note lasts considerably longer than before. How does it do that? Without getting overly technical, the compressor has a circuit that "senses" when the volume (or the amount of signal) starts to drop (decay) . This circuit, in turn, starts turning up the volume very quickly, to compensate for the "naturally"diminishing volume level of the guitar's signal. This "trick" makes it seem like the volume is consistently louder for a longer period of time, giving the impression of "infinite" sustain. But there's more tricks up the compressor's sleeve! Most of these pedals also allow you adjust the "attack" (the initial sound you get from the pick-remember?) . By varying the "attack" (aka sensitivity) you can "soften" that initial "pick sound" to give you a smoother overall sound from beginning to end. Need some examples? You know that amazingly, quick, fingerpickin' clean , even sounding tone you hear on those Nashville shows & recordings? Yep-the guitarist is usually going thru a compressor. Let's say you're a bassplayer who LOVES doin' the "Mark King" thumb/pop/slapping bass thing BUT your amp has a tendency to clip (aka distort) just on the "peaks", no matter how much you try to pull back on some of those aggressive notes. Try going thru a compressor to tame that signal level a bit before it hits your amp. Got an acoustic-electric 12string that isn't sounding even "across the board"? Put it thru a compressor-you'll be amazed how smooth and balanced it'll sound. Miking a bass drum that's killing the mixer? Insert a compressor on the bass drum mike to "soften the blow" Recording a synth part on your four-track and it's hammering the meters? Try a compressor. Although a compressor/sustainer isn't one of those effects that stands out like an overdrive or flanger, it can probably be used in many more situations than any of those pedals, the most time consuming part is getting to "KNOW" exactly how to tweak it for each different purpose. ^top^

Q33. What's a "truss rod" in a guitar and what does it do?

A33. A truss rod (some people incorrectly refer to it as a "torsion rod") is a section of steel rod or rail stock that's "embedded" in a routed channel in the neck, under the fingerboard. When a set of strings is tuned up to pitch, this exerts a large amount of stress on the wood that would pull the headstock (where the machine heads are) forward, "bending" (warping) the neck in the process. This in turn, would make the guitar extremely difficult to play, let alone keep tuned accurately. The truss rod's purpose (when adjusted properly) is to counter-act this "pull", keeping the strings (and the neck) properly aligned. Because the truss rod has to play a "balancing act" between the string's tension and the humididty content in the neck's wood (and the climate) , it's wise to have your guitar's truss rod checked (and if needed, adjusted) at least twice a year if you live in a "real" 4-season region. . Normally, you would get your guitar's truss rod checked in spring (when the heater's are off, windows are open and that moist humid air blows into town) as well as midwinter (when the furnace is going full-tilt and the humidity in the house-drops easily to half it's spring/summer value due to the drier, colder winter climate). ^top^

Q34. What's a DIRECT BOX ? What's it used for?

A34. A direct box is used to send (and convert) a high impedance (hi-level) signal (either your electric guitar, bass or keyboard signal) into a low impedance (lo-level) signal to either a p. a. mixer or recorder input (normally via it's 3-pin xlr mic. input) . There are two basic types of direct box (aka D. I. . or Direct Injection) used in the biz-i'll explain both of these so you'll know more than you'll ever probably need to! The first type is referred to as either a passive or a transformer type D. I. box. "Passive" means you don't get any boost or pre-amp. If you put in a 1volt signal, you'll get 1volt or less coming OUT of the D. I. Internally, the D. I. has a tiny transformer used to convert the (usually) high impedance (aka hi-Z) signal of an electric guitar or bass into a lo-impedance (lo-Z) signal that most professional mixers or recorders are designed for. Some D. I. units also have a built-in PAD (aka attenuation-more on this later!) . At about this point most folks ask"why use a D. I. -why not use a "modified" guitar cord and plug into the P. A. ?" You could, (if you were stuck in a fix) BUT there's always a trade-off. A couple of things at play here. Since guitars are considered HI-Z and 3-pin xlr type microphone jacks (inputs on a mixer, recorder) are designed to accept LO-Z signals, a fairly huge impedance mismatch would occur if you were to plug a guitar into the mixer's LO-Z jack if you DIDN'T go through a DI box first. Depending on how large the mismatch your guitar would come out sounding either really brittle, very distorted (not the good kind) , and unbalanced tone-wise. Guitars, being the HI-Z beasts they are, are very prone to interference, RF noises, hum from lighting-you name it! This problem gets even worse when using guitar cables (HI-Z) longer than 25' when connecting from an amp to the board. A HI-Z guitar cable acts just like an antenna and the longer it is-the more audio"garbage" it'll pick up and run down to your p. a. to be amplified (not good-nor desired!) . This is where D. I. comes back into the picture. The D. I. (via it's internal transformer) converts the guitar's HI-Z signal (interference prone) to a LO-Z (very much less prone to interference) signal that can be sent down a 3-pin type (xlr) mike cable (even up to three hundred feet) with less noise than with "regular"guitar cable. Let's say your guitar (or bass) is equipped with a really HOT (aka very high output level) set of pickups. You plug thru the D. I. box and it still sounds a little "dirty" thru the P. A. (or it still turns on the board's clipping indicator-even with the channel gain turned down) . Use a D. I. box that features ATTENUATION (can you say "ah-ten-new-AY-shun?) . It can either be a little control or switch that "pads" down (thru the use of purpose selected resistors) that hot signal in varying amounts so it won't overload (aka clip) the mixer's input. The SECOND type of D. I. box is referred to as an active direct box. Compared to the previously discussed passive D. I. , the ACTIVE D. I does give your signal a "boost". So, put a 1volt signal and you can get MORE output than input, if needed. How can you tell if somebody just handed you a passive OR an active D. I. ? A passive D. I doesn't need a battery or power supply to work. An active D. I. always needs to be powered, either by a battery or an outboard supply or fed via "phantom power" (more on that later!) to do it's job. Remember the "transformer" that was used in the passive D. I to covert the signal from Hi-Z to Lo-Z? Well, with many transformers (depending on their cost & design) there are limitations on how accurately they'll convert your guitar's signal, affecting it's overall sound. Most lo-cost D. I. boxes typically priced to sell between $40. -75. 00 generally use some version of a lo-cost transformer that will have one or more of these limitations. Enter the active D. I. An active D. I. uses an electronic version of a transformer to convert the impedance (from hi-z to lo-z) as well as build up some gain (boost) in the process. The active D. I. will usually always have a much wider frequency response (it'll sound better) than the standard passive D. I. , yielding better low end (more bass) , improved mid-range and treble (which usually gets cut off quite a bit with standard passive types) . Active D. I. also gives you even better immunity from noise & hum, since the guitar signal is isolated even better. Okay, how come more people don't use an ACTIVE D. I , then, compared to a PASSIVE D. I. ? Foremost-the cost. A well designed ACTIVE D. I. can easily cost 2 to 3 times more than a standard run-of-the-mill PASSIVE D. I. Second, most users figure (incorrectly) if the "cheaper one works-that's good enough" It becomes a matter of what you can live with in terms of sound quality ($$$) . If you want the most accurate sound going into the P. A. , then you'd want to use an ACTIVE D. I. A problem that crops up frequently is when using an acoustic (box) guitar that's equipped with a PIEZO (pronounced "pee-yay-zoh") transducer pickup that's mounted under the bridge saddle and is wired straight-to-the-jack without an onboard eq-preamp. A piezo pickup's impedance is extremely high (easily measuring 10 MILLION ohms!) . This is a "by-product" of the Piezo's material. So what happens when you plug this piezo equipped guitar (with it's mega-ohm impedance) into a PASSIVE D. I. that's designed to accept impedances of 50 thousand ohms and less? Definitely something not good! The usual result is an incredibly thin sound, muffled tone and practcally no signal level (very little volume) or a bizarre quacky midrange sound-you can just tell-it don't sound right!How do you solve the problem? There's no real way around it with a PASSIVE D. I. . However, a side benefit of an ACTIVE D. I. is it's BUFFERED (no-not the pain reliever) input preamp. The "buffer" in the preamp is designed to accept & more closely match the ultra-high impedances of these piezo's than it's transformer counterpart. ^top^

Q35. Our band just bought a mixer-amp which has a switch on it that says "phantom power" What's phantom power for?

A35. That's a handy feature that's (finally) trickled down from hi-priced consoles to more and more affordable mixers than ever (ahh-the ever descending price of technology!) . Lets's say you own several very nice condenser mikes that each require battery paks or individual power supplies to operate. With phantom power, you can eliminate all those and power your mikes remotely, from the mixer. The phantom power is sent from the mixer's separate supply down the the same mike cables used to connect the mikes to the mixer. This same phantom power can also be used to power most ACTIVE D. I boxes (that require battery paks or power adaptors, cleaning up the stage considerably in the process - no more solitary AC extension cord and ac adaptor powering a "lone" D. I. across the front!). ^top^

Q36. I'm new to playing bass guitar. What's the difference between FLATWOUND, ROUND WOUND, GROUNDWOUND, NICKEL and STAINLESS STEEL bass strings?

A36. Good question with farly simple answers. You can easily tell the difference between the first three by taking a close look at them an running your thumbnail across each string. Flat wound bass strings are just that-there's no "edge" to them. They feel smooth to the touch. When amplified, they sound that way too, with not a lot of upper top end (brightness) . Some players say they sound "wooly" meaning there's less individual definition between notes as they tend to "blend" together. If you play a lot of 60's era material, most basses then were strung up with flatwounds so you would consider that in trying to "capture" that sound. Flatwounds also sound like they've been played and "broken in" already. Again, it's a case of "different strokes for diffrent folks". For bass players that need more edge, more punch and attack in the tone of their bass, roundwounds will help deliver that typical Entwhistle/Squire sound. Running your thumb nail along a roundwound will reveal a ridge that also accounts for a livelier overall sound. Individual notes seem to project more with much less "blurring" when using roundwound strings compared to flatwounds. It's worth noting that if you're used to playing flatwounds or are about to (finally!) change to a new set of roundwounds for the first time-it does take some getting used to. Round wounds tend to sound a little more buzzy (some folks call it rattle) for the first week or so, ESPECIALLY if you tend to play aggressively and/or use very low action (string heigth) . If you're a newcomer, roundwound, will "burn" fingertip skin quicker than flatwounds in the process of building up calluses. Now we come to GROUNDWOUND strings. For bass players who don't need the enhanced treble bite or want to keep their string height as low as they can get away with, go for the groundwounds. Essentially these are roundwounds with their gritty ridges ground (aka grinded) down to feel a little smoother on the fingers (and fretboard) almost similiar to the flatwounds yet retaining most of the tone of the roundwounds. Where RW, FW and GW refer to how bass strings are constructed, Nickel and Stainless Steel refer to what they're made of. Nickel strings tend to sound a little "warmer" (that 60's sound again!) but they don't last as long. Stainless Steel will have a more pronounced treble than nickel. As well, they tend to tarnish at a much slower rate than nickel, offering longer life between string changes. How about some suggestions you ask? Here goes. . . Let's say your particular bass doesn't cut through enough on stage. Try a set of Stainless Steel type strings. Doing a lot of 60's type cover tunes and old blues? Try a set of flat wounds. If Progressive Rock is your thing, roundwounds are normally the set to go with. Doing a lot of New Country? Go with a set of groundwounds-just enough top end without a lot of fingersqueaks or popping needed and turn your tone back a bit for the mellower stuff. Another point to remember. Whenever you change to a new type of bass string, it's wise to turn all your controls back to O, before you try them out. Why? Many player's ears get used to hearing "expired" strings for so long that they get "thrown off" when they first hear a new set of strings, thinking that the new strings are way too bright. Actually what's happened, as the old strings gradually aged, the normal "thing" to do was to keep re-adjust ing the amp's e. q (tone controls) to overcompensate for the increasing loss of balance in string tone. Once your new set is installed, you can start from O again (and probably wonder why you "seem" to be using less e. q. than before!). ^top^

Q37. Why is there NO back panels on combo amps? Can I boost my combo amp's bass by "sealing up" the open section at the rear of the cabinet?

A37. Here's a little history lesson. At the beginning of the good 'ole guitaramp days, players used to play behind their amps, placing their (relatively small) amps in front of them to project further out into the audience. One of the reasons for no back panels was so the players could hear themselves, since most of the speaker's sound was aimed out ahead of them, out of their range. Besides the obvious additional (minimal) cost, not to mention the extra weight (probable!) of that "missing" extra panel, most guitar speakers of that era (and today) have a fairly high resonance (aka Fs) that wouldn't benefit from being sealed up into a usually too-small cabinet for those particular speakers. Which ties to the second question. In the 'ole days, many speaker designs were haphazard at best (with a bit of wishful thinking thrown in!) . Most guitar speakers, having a high resonance (high Fs) that peak around the 80hz (if you're lucky) region. don't sound so good when "forced" to perform in a cabinet sized smaller than what they would "normally"be designed for. This would be the case with a combo cab that would have it's backsection "sealed up" in an attempt to "get more bass" from it's speakers. This wouldn't work. Sealing it up would actually "push up" the speaker's resonance, actually removing even more bass! Pushing up this resonance could also give the effect of making the amp sound more "honky" with a more pronounced midrange peak not to mention the speaker's reduced power handling capacity, due to the added "stress" on the cone and voicecoil. In another one of those holdovers from the 'ole days, it's easier for most manufacturers to just leave the rear of the combo open-backed, let the speaker flap away in the wind (so to speak) and let the amp's tone controls compensate for any shortcomings. ^top^

Q38. What's the difference between an ANALOG DELAY and a DIGITAL DELAY?

A38. Well, analog delay came first, then, digital delay "showed up". But, of course there's more to them than that so here goes. When you run a signal (like your guitar) into an analog delay (I promise I'll keep it simple) the guitar's "sound" gets processed (kinda like going thru a cuisinart!) so part of it get's delayed slightly (this delay is measured in fractions of a second, called milliseconds) and gets added back to itself just before it "leaves" via the output jack. During this process, certain "comprimises" are made (there always seems to isn't there?) . Depending on the circuit design/component quality/cost & budget factors, usually the maximum delay time you can expect is about 400milliseconds (or "ms") from analog based delay. This, at one time, was considered "pretty. amazingly long!" Another factor with analog delay is when you play the first (original) note, each delayed note that gets repeated thereafter sounds duller (treble wise and volume level wise) one after another, etc. etc. This, to many players isn't considered a "bad thing" but just part of the analog sound. Then came DIGITAL. . . When you run your guitar signal into a DIGITAL DELAY, the guitar's "sound" gets converted to some digital version of a number (just like your computer does!) courtesy of it's internal advanced (compared to analog) circuitry. This "numbered" version of your guitar sound can now be further processed & manipulated much more easily allowing even longer delay times (it's not unusual to see digital delay pedals with up to a FULL TWO MINUTES or more of delay time!) . Other digital "trickery" allows "freezing" a riff or lick at one speed and looping it around itself (the beginning is tied to the end of the lick) and letting it replay over & over, without fading out, even after multiple repeats! It can keep doing this till YOU decide. Also, once that lick is "looping", you can change it's speed, either way, again till you decide to stop the process. Compared to an analog delay, the DIGITAL version will repeat the delays at the same volume, with the same treble response for each successive delay. Okay, so what are the trade-offs between the two? COST seems to be the largest determining factor (as far as I'm concerned) in the quality of the sound and what you can do with it. I'll explain. There's little point in buying and using the cheapest analog OR digital delay you can get your hands on. "Budget" priced analog delays either don't offer long enough delay times, or they cut corners on noise reduction (analog processing tends to hiss) circuitry. As you go up in price, the delayed sound (aka "wet signal") IS quieter, smoother sounder, with crisper definition while being set at the MAXIMUM delay setting. The trade-off being upper range response versus maximum delay time versus noise level. It's costlier to get all three at their best, in the same unit! With digital delay, cost usually determines how many tricks it'll do while trying to "repro duce" your delayed signal as accurately as possible, with the least amount of "grainyness" or "giltches" in the delayed sound. What does all this translate to? You would be wiser to choose a delay with a shorter delay time, but had a superior response with less noise than picking up a delay with massive delay time that you couldn't use because there was just too much hiss and no treble response to the delayed sound. ^top^

A0. Click here for our illustrated overview on how to restring an electric guitar.