The Best Guitar Effects Processor – The Secret to Great Guitar Tone

by | Dec, 2019 | Musical Accessories

Pure heart-stopping distortion.

Those were the words used in a guitar player magazine advert for the Art six 2000 that first caught my attention. The most important thing I learned from owning one was how to eq my sound to get a great guitar tone.

I know that sounds like I’m blowing my own trumpet, and everyone has their own idea of what a good guitar sound is, so let’s just say I’ve learned a few things that hopefully you may find useful.

When it comes to direct recording, I’ve always tried to emulate the sound one hears when standing a fair distance away from the speakers, as opposed to the gritty sound one gets when the amplifier speaker is facing you directly.

Simple EQ guidelines.

I almost always end up adding more bass to my guitar sound. Not too much, but just enough to round out the sound. A guitar sound can actually handle quite a fair amount of extra bass before it gets overbearing.

The trick here is to offset it with the right amount of upper midrange. The frequency I generally like to use is 4 kHz.

For bass, 100 Hz is usually fine, but it depends on the amplifier and speaker being modeled as well.

Guitar effects processors and amplifier modelers I’ve used successfully in the studio.

  1. The Art SGX 2000 (No longer made). This had a valve preamp section which was configured in different ways to produce various sounds, as well as a solid-state distortion. This had excellent effects and eq options. The closest thing available nowadays is the Rocktron Prophecy 2 and the Rocktron voodoo valve.
  2. The Sansamp classic. This in combination with the Art SGX 2000 gave me one of the most awesome rock guitar sounds. This is simply an amplifier simulator and has no extra effects like reverb, delay, etc.
  3. The Roland GP 100. The first guitar effects processor from Roland to feature their “Composite Object Sound Modelling”, or COSM for short. This was a totally digital unit, and even though the effects were good, the amp models left a lot to be desired. The latest COSM guitar preamps are mostly made by Boss, a subsidiary of Roland.
  4. The Behringer V-Amp. This little unit surprised me with the quality of some of its tones, especially for direct recording and live straight into the mixing desk. The trick was to use the right speaker cabinet model, as only a few where good. Behringer is now up to the V-Amp 3.
  5. The Boss GT-6. This multi-effects processor initially disappointed me, but after really diving in and exploring every option available, I was eventually able to emulate a wide variety of guitar amps quite convincingly as well as find a guitar sound to call my own. If you’ve got one, the trick is to use the booster pedal effect to alter the tone of some amps as well as not be afraid to eq the hell out of it if you have to.
  6. The Boss GT-Pro. This, along with the GT 10 floor unit is the latest COSM processor and is a rack-mountable guitar rig for the recording studio.

While I’ve used other guitar processors than the ones mentioned above, I’ve excluded those that really didn’t have what it takes. There are also a lot of guitar processors I’ve never used before which may be excellent, but I can’t really say anything about them until I do.

Some more tips when working with guitar amp modelers.

  • Never be afraid to get too radical with the EQ. Sometimes that’s what it takes to turn a good sound into a great one.
  • Always take a break when you think you’ve found the sound you want, and come back later to see if it’s still sounding good.
  • Check the sound with and without headphones. What sounds good on headphones can sometimes be a bit over the top when the studio monitors are used.
  • Use a guitar that’s got medium to low output. Some processors can’t handle the extremely high output of high gain pickups. I’ve found that pickups with an impedance of 15K or less work fine. 20K may be too much for certain digital processors.
  • Check all gain stages if you can too see that no part of the effects chain is overloading the next one, or the output. This helps a lot with the final tone.

So what is the best guitar effects processor?

As always, this is very subjective. Everyone has a different taste in guitar sound. What I look for is a comprehensive EQ section with an option to put something in the effects loop, so I can add to the machine later.

As I mentioned earlier, the best rock guitar sound I ever got was using one of Tech 21’s classic Sansamp pedals in the effects loop of my Art SGX 2000. Seeing as they don’t make the art anymore, I’ve found other options.

Your guitar and pickups can make a major difference as well. At the moment I use the Boss GT-Pro, and I’ve got some really great sounds from it, but not without tweaking and experimentation.
Source by Andrew Gavin Webber