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Problem

I own a Peavey triple X (XXX) amp. I like most of the amp, but its clean channel is just to clear and clean for me. I mainly play metal/rock and I need the clean sound warmer, compressed and have a bit bite.

The clean channel has only one knob for gain/volume - both the red and orange channels have separate gain/volume knobs. So when I have enough gain and body on the clean channel it becomes much louder than the others - especially when playing chords (because there's nothing to compress the transients on clean)... This became worse with my active pickup guitar.

Currently I use the amp with minimal master volume (around 9 o'clock), the volume on both distorted channels set to almost max and clean around halfway.

Questions

  • What can I do to compress and warm up the clean channel in the meantime not affecting the distorted channels? Modding the amp? Use a funky control that can switch on/off a pedal for only the clean channel?

  • I tried to search for mods for the clean channels, but I only get vague descriptions. Sending the amp from middle of Europe to a guy in America is not an option :). So can anyone suggest how to mod it? (Or a forum where I can ask for proper knowledge?)

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2 Answers 2

The traditional solution would be to crank up the master volume to get more power amp overdrive, the only stage common to all channels. So it will of course affect the distortion channels as well, but probably not in a harmful way. However, it of course means you'll be much louder overall1.

Really, that Clean channel seems to be meant to have such a sound that does not make anything "warm", doesn't smooth out any transients, but preserves any details of the sound you give it as much as possible. If you need a more bluesy sound, then this channel is just not the right choice – unless you happen to have a pedal which offers just the right sound, and you don't want the amp to change it in any way.

Otherwise, the natural thing to do is to just use the Rhythm channel instead, in a clean-ish setting: perhaps achieved by attenuating the signal before the amp (guitar volume pot or some rather turned-down pedal). If you also need higher gain scenes on that channel and can't cope with the volume difference, you might even use the lead channel for this, with very much turned-down input. In both cases you can of course also use extra distortion pedals to make up for a bit of the amp's distortion.

But if you want to keep the Rhythm and Lead channels as they are, and are determined to "abuse" the Clean channel as a crunch channel, then you'll have to get that overdrive from somewhere else. Generic tube preamps2 like the ART TubeMP make a good permanent gentle / warm overdrive without altering the frequency response. Again this will affect the other channels as well, but probably not even noticable – only, the signal will have a much higher level into the amp. Just turning down the gain pots (volume in the clean channel) might give exactly the right sound. An opto/tube compressor might be even better.

If you actually want to mod only the clean channel, probably the most effective thing would be to hard-wire such an entire tube preamp into it. You don't really need to know anything about the specs, basically just trace the signal coming from the guitar jack and route it through this extra tube stage. Without an extra tube, I doubt any modification will give you the crunch you're asking for: again, that clean channel was specifically designed to not have any crunch whatsoever!


1It's possible if somewhat ridiculous to "burn away" that extra power with special resistor modules before the cabinets.
2You'll typically find the sold as mic preamps, but they work fine with instrument signals too.

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Thanks for the detailed answer! Actually, the crunch channel has some much gain, that turning down itself usually means it is either silent or still have too much crunch. But it can be easily tested with turning down a volume pot on the guitar. –  atoth Aug 5 at 10:27
    
@atoth: well, you have plenty of headroom in the master section, so I don't think it should be a problem to get the Rhythm channel loud enough when used only slightly crunchy. –  leftaroundabout Aug 5 at 12:12

I agree with @leftaroundabout's answer but if you add pedals you can compress and warm up the clean channel. I do this all the time. An all-in-one pedalboard that will allow you to tweak the clean amp to your heart's delight is the Boss ME-80:

. I'm not a Boss sponsor in any way, but this pedalboard has worked for me in live gigs.

If you don't want jump between pedals then the standard way to "warm up" and compress a clean tone is to use a tube preamp. You could leave this on all the time. There are quite a number of tube preamp pedals on the market such as the EHX Black Finger as well as pedals that model tube preamps such as the Tech 21 Sans Amp

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Thanks for the suggestion, but I'm looking to a solution that does not alter the Crunch/Ultra channels, and I don't require performing well-timed acrobatics (like jumping on a footswitch AND a pedal at the same time). –  atoth Aug 5 at 10:29

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