Optimizing Digital Effect Processors in Live Performances

So everybody goes to analog pedals these days. what happens with digital effect processors anyway? yet is there anything wrong with guitar digieffects? Actually this is phenomenal. when music business demands originality and unique sound characters, people start to think to achieve the unique guitar sound by using boutique pedals, or at least modded analog pedals besides getting various amps, speakers and recording methods. many sources said that digital effect processors tend to have “robotic sound” while to determine what is robotic sound by ears only is not easy.

Well, frankly this is annoying. You come at stage and you hear people saying your digital effects processors aren’t good enough to achieve the optimal sound just because there’s saying about “robotic sound that digieffect tends to have”. even before they heard how you play guitar. it’s silly.

but leave it be and trust your ears, your playing and you will hear your guitar learning results singing all the way. while here I’ll share you some ideas in optimizing your digital effect processors for live performances purpose.

RULE (for every CONDITION that i will mention below):

leave the equalizers inside digital effects processors Flat, so does for the amps

By leaving the equalizer in flat position, you will hear the real sound of your guitar and you will know sound differences between your stratocaster and your lespaul, or hollow body and telecaster, superstrat and other guitar model. you can also get more sound definition by kinds of pickups. this is Very Important. by knowing this, you can determinate how overdrive and distortion works on guitar sound. how to flatten equalizers? we all know that’s the easy part. put all numbers in mid-position. if your equalizer has 0-100 range, put them all on 50 number’s value. at some points you might want to put all the treble, mid and bass on value 25. that’s what i do when I’m not sure about the gain and want more enhancements later. you can bypass the digieffects for sound comparison. for my setup, there’s almost no differences between the clean setup and the bypass sound except for the volume. i add some color later after this circumstance.

now.let’s move on to the digital effects processor. Mostly digieffects have preamp modelling and this is our start in fulfilling our needs in guitar sound. if the thing is, You meet Amps on stage or/and you wanna use them as your guitar main sound preamp, that’s the main idea of this article.

what you need to do is
– turn the digieffect’s preamp modelling OFF.
– decide your effects chains sequence.
you want the amps as the first sequence of your effects chain, so:
1. you can plug your “digieffect guitar IN” into “amps SEND” and “digieffect guitar OUT” into “amps RETURN” (plug your guitar into “amps INPUT”)

"digieffect guitar IN" into "amps SEND"---"digieffect guitar OUT" into "amps RETURN" -- plug your guitar into "amps INPUT"
“digieffect guitar IN” into “amps SEND”—“digieffect guitar OUT” into “amps RETURN” — plug your guitar into “amps INPUT”

2. you can plug your “digieffect guitar SEND” into “Amps INPUT” and “amps SEND” into “digieffect guitar RETURN” next the “digieffect guitar OUTPUT” into “amps RETURN” (plug your guitar into “effect INPUT”)

"digieffect guitar SEND" into "Amps INPUT" -- "amps SEND" into "digieffect guitar RETURN" -- "digieffect guitar OUTPUT" into "amps RETURN" -- plug your guitar into "effect INPUT"
“digieffect guitar SEND” into “Amps INPUT” — “amps SEND” into “digieffect guitar RETURN” — “digieffect guitar OUTPUT” into “amps RETURN” — plug your guitar into “effect INPUT”


then set the effects sequence on your digieffect and make the “EXTERNAL LOOP” as the first in chain sequence.

boss gt-8 effects chain external loop

here I’m using BOSS GT-8, I’m sure you can find this on other kind of digieffects rear panel such as POD X3 Live, DigiTech RP1000 or ZOOM G9.2tt

multieffects rear panelBy doing this, you are disabling the preamp modelling and using stage Amps as your first sequence in effects chain.

please pay attention to the two above, because those two methods affect your guitar sound in general.  they eliminate the robotic sound factor which is the preamp modelling is the cause of it.

now your default clean sound is your stage Amps sound, you can bypass the digieffect and find out that your bypass sound is still your stage Amps sound. Again, leave the Digital Effect Processors Equalizer in flat setting. I recommend you to set the equalizer for final touch of your rig setting. all I’m saying is if you set the clean sounds and distorted sounds in balanced/flat equalizer, you will consider more about balancing the volume and gain between each setting. by doing that, all your settings, include clean sound and distorted sound will easily be modified in  one equalizer(the amps equalizer). This process is useful in understanding the guitar sound enhancements knowledge.

FYI: this may not work for some other digital effects processors because the lack of External Loop features on them. unless you have made your own good observations, ask the shop guy to demonstrate the features of anything you wanna buy from the music store. if you don’t, you might end up in regret.


next thing is easy. what you do after that above is setting the stompbox modeller which all depend on your taste. you can set them in patch mode or manual mode. try them both to get the efficiency in performing live. make sure you put the overdrive/distortion(fuzz, dist, crunch, etc.) before modulation/ambience(chorus, delay, reverb, etc.) to get optimal tonality especially in tone precision and clarity. I’ll write about it for next posts.  Have a good day, guitar learners! 🙂