Midi control of amps and pedals...

Discussion in 'Amplifiers' started by aristotle, Feb 15, 2015.

  1. aristotle

    aristotle New Member

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    So I've been using the Archon a bunch recently, and really like how I have the lead channel dialed in. I run the gain back (relative to the insane levels that the Archon lets you get...) and it really is a dynamic and organic and touch sensitive, blah blah... In the past, with all of my amps when used live, I always set it up so that all pedals are in front of the amp because gumming up the floor with send and receive leads and having two separate chains on the floor seem more trouble than they're worth. So, on a multi-channel amp, if a song wants some effects, I go to the clean channel and put whatever dirt I might want in with a dirt pedal, and add whatever delay effects that are required.

    Typical set up is tuner followed by two or three dirt pedals (only ever use one at a time) followed by delay, chorus, univibe, whatever, followed by a clean boost then to the amp.

    Since I really like the Archon lead tone though, and since some of the songs that we're doing really want more effects than I've wanted / needed in the past with classic rock, I've been experimenting with running delay->univibe->chorus in the loop. So, I have two separate chains on the floor, three guitar cables running back (two for the loop and one to the amp input) and the Archon foot controller with its cable. Sounds fantastic, but yuck in terms of setup and floor mess.

    Now, I know I could make up a custom snake that would keep everything neater, and organize the pedal situation better on the floor, but thought that it would be a good excuse to get into the wonderful world of midi control / presets. I'd have a midi floor pedal that with a button push would simultaneously set amp channel, amp loop on / off, would select which pedals are put into the chain in front of the amp, and set which pedals get put into the loop chain.

    I'm in the process of investigating, but was wondering what any of you might use as a solution. Here are my thoughts at the moment...

    1. Although I want this to work with the Archon, I'm an amp whore, and I'll be wanting to use it with my Roadster, my 6100, my Orange, whatever I might decide that the amp du-jour is. So, my JVM410 for example can be controlled by midi directly, but the Archon can't.... I don't want to have to trash whatever I have put together entirely if I want to use a new amp. So, I want a solution that works with switch closures and also is able to send midi commands to amps in a flexible way (it's not a very standard thing evidently in terms of how amps with midi are controlled...) Cables will be a sticky point, I know.... The Archon for example has the din connector, but it's essentially switch closure.... But I'm OK with making a cable that goes from a couple of quarter inch jacks to the Archon connector.

    2. I'll probably only have...say...8 presets at most. I don't want some huge pedal board that has dozens of buttons.

    3. I don't mind setting this up in a rack, but I don't mind a board solution set up behind (or even in front of) the amp on the floor.

    4. I haven't tried out any rack effects units like GForce, but I like the idea of being able to swap pedals in and out as I find ones that I like for the loop stuff.

    There is a ton out there, with either way more than I want, or just a little less. Looking at Voodoo labs stuff, but not convinced that it'll do everything I want at a reasonable price. I'll keep you informed of my progress with this, but was curious what you guys do......
     
  2. LSchefman

    LSchefman Hears Tones

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    This is a great post; I've run MIDI in my studio to control a rack rig I ran with guitar (though I haven't run it to control the amps themselves). Generally what's needed is a box to handle turning pedals or combinations of pedals on and off, like the one Voodoo labs and other companies make, and a controller that sits on the floor. The box can also be set up to control the amplifier, I just haven't done that in my career yet except I have controlled a Mesa rackmount guitar preamp with MIDI and run that into a power amp.

    I did the MIDI rig because it was a GREAT way of having my amp and rack gear in the recording booth at my old studio, and being able to control everything with a simple floor controller in my control room. I needed to have the amp and the rack gear in the same room for tweaking effects, obviously. And I needed to have the amps in the booth for noise control.

    Once you've spent the time and effort needed to set up a bunch of presets, you will be amazed at how much you like doing it.

    Also the GForce is a terrific option with its loops. I would also imagine that it might be worth checking out the new AxeFX Multieffects box that has just come out, but I don't know as much about it as I do the GForce.
     
  3. sergiodeblanc

    sergiodeblanc Get in, loser, we’re going shopping.

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    I used to use the GCX that Voodoo makes (but before when they were called DMC) to switch channels on my Mesa Strategy 500 and it worked flawlessly. I was a big rack guy in the past and this is probably the best and cheapest way to go before going Bradshaw/CAE. If you don't mind hauling a rack, there are some incredible bargains to be had in studio processor land and MIDI Continuos Control is well worth the hassle... simply turing effects on and off is for suckers.
     
  4. aristotle

    aristotle New Member

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    Thanks for the opinions guys.

    Yeah Les, I've heard that the GForce is worth taking the time to learn. I'm rather certain that there isn't anything super special with the pedals in the loop that I have that the GForce wouldn't do better and in less space. I probably ought to design this around just one amp (which would be the Archon) and have everything totally optimized and buttoned up for that. Still looking at options.

    And if I go that route, then I would be going with a rack Sergio. No clue what MIDI Continuous Control" is, so I'm a sucker for the moment. Google is my friend though....

    On a partially related subject, I still haven't figured out why my Archon doesn't exhibit the noisy loop problem so many people have reported. As I was monkeying around with this stuff, I pulled out my phone and made this "recording".

    The amp is set at gig master levels, the gain on the dirty channel is set at around 1 o'clock (which is higher than I ever set it when I'm playing), and my delay, univibe and chorus are plugged in through the loop using rather cheap 20' guitar cables up to my pedal board. There is a change in hiss going from the clean to dirty channel (a normal amount by my standards) but absolutely no change in hum or noise when the loop is engaged. If anything, I can convince myself that the background hiss actually decreases, though that's probably my imagination....



    [​IMG]

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    #4 aristotle, Feb 15, 2015
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 22, 2015
  5. LSchefman

    LSchefman Hears Tones

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    Aristotle, MIDI Continuous Controllers are really easy to understand.

    In the 80s, players were touring with keyboard rigs with stacks of keyboards, since there weren't any multitimbral synths. This got unwieldy, and the industry decided to come up with a spec that would allow a "master controller" to send signals to synths in rack devices, etc. Also the spec was designed to address effects boxes, and change patches for an entire rig on the fly.

    They key is that MIDI was designed for synth players to control all the features of their stacks of synths with one keyboard, via digital messages. The most basic MIDI messages are momentary - note on, note off, change the patch, etc. That was the easy part to decide.

    But the folks who came up with the MIDI spec back in the 80s realized that their synths also had controllers like pitch bend, modulation wheels, and volume controls - these things aren't merely on-off switches, they work continuously throughout their range, hence the name "continuous controllers."

    With the invention of the MIDI spec, there was a need to be able to handle these controllers with messages that sent digital signals to the synths. Bottom line is that MIDI has 127 messages that can be sent, and the CC messages each have 127 steps. It was felt that 127 steps in a controller message would offer a smooth enough curve for things like volume, modulation wheels, aftertouch on keyboards, keyboard velocity messages, etc.

    Guitar players glommed on to the fact that they could send these MIDI CC messages with foot pedals (hence the expression pedal), and control banks of rack effects. The 80s saw an explosion of big guitar racks for this reason. The CC messages could handle things like volume, modulation, pitch pedals, and the list is endless. Amp manufacturers wanted in on the deal, so by the 90s there were MIDI controlled guitar amps.

    So, for example, MIDI message 7 is traditionally Volume, and when a message 7 is sent, it sends the number 7 plus whatever the volume level should be, say it's about halfway up. So along with the controller 7 message, the number 60 is sent. As the volume is increased, the second part of the message increases continuously.

    There you have it. MIDI CC.
     
  6. sergiodeblanc

    sergiodeblanc Get in, loser, we’re going shopping.

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    Hey sorry Aristotle, I didn't mean to sound like such a boner calling you a sucker. I'm mostly a sucker at the moment too, but I still do CC stuff.

    I should've said that I find using CC really satisfying and it adds an exciting element to use effects that you can manipulate within the context of your performance. The cool thing about the GCX was that it has two expression pedal inputs that you can map to whatever parameters your digital processor allows.

    Imagine if your delay was like your uni-vibe pedal to where you could adjust the feedback or modulation of that effect with a pedal while you used it? You can have a regular echo-isn delay going and then adjust the feedback for some ultra-dub style "Shaw-shaw-shaw-shaw" delay that carries over into you cleaner-than-clean rhythm part. Or starting with a slow phase rate during the beginning of a solo and the speed up the rate at the end for some super freak-out psychedelic madness? So Bangin'!

    I used to run mine with a Digitech GSP 2101 that allowed you to link up to 10 of any of the devices parameters to a single foot treadle! I had it to where the pedal in its back position was just straight rhythm tone, but slowly moving it forward would increase gain, pull down the noise gate threshold, adjust the mid band of the eq, and adjust the input to the delay, like an instant studio-processed lead sound all by rocking my foot on an Ernie Ball volume pedal. I could use it all-out or just subtly to transition from lead to rhythm part or just add a little sparkle and scream to unison bends, it was also super easy to dive for a huge pedal like that mid-song rather than tap-dance on three pedals.

    It kinda bums me out that we seem to have lost this kind of functionally when guitarists went back to "retro" analog pedal-based systems.
     
  7. LSchefman

    LSchefman Hears Tones

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    So true.

    But there are still control voltage systems (Moog still makes them for all their gear!) and of course analog switching systems that are digitally controlled. So it is possible to have the best of both worlds still.
     
  8. BrianC

    BrianC more toys than talent

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    Go to the JVM forum, there is a ton of info there on it.
     
  9. iR4lf

    iR4lf New Member

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    Hey aristotle!

    I just recently thought about posting the exact questions, so I also would welcome your tips and hints here. I am looking for an easy way to switch both the Archon and my other amps without too much configuration and some of my effects. Till now I used a GCX and a Ground Control to switch my Dual Rec etc. but that just does not work with the Archon. RJM has some good tools and currently I am thinking about buying their tools to use it with the Archon...They have cables for all amps and it is pretty easy to set up!

    https://www.rjmmusic.com/store/product.php?productid=16258
     
  10. stevan5150

    stevan5150 New Member

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    One Control Crocodile Tail.... best piece of gear I own ( i replaced the nova delay for the eventide, that way i can have patches changed with midi)
    I have this hooked up to my Mesa Mark V with an RJM amp gizmo

    [​IMG]
     
    #10 stevan5150, Feb 17, 2015
    Last edited: Feb 17, 2015
  11. vchizzle

    vchizzle Birdman.

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    Nice board!
    This is what I was going to suggest. Do you really wanna haul a big rack of crap around? This is coming from a guy who's been doing just that for the past 10+ years. I'm running a GCX/GCP, a control switcher, multiple voodoo power supplies, etc. I'm also running a wet/dry set-up. Sounds awesome but it's a pain in the ass. For the most part, I'm the only one who notices it(or cares). Yeah, you might have to run 3 cables with a board like stevan5150 to separate your loop/front of amp signal, not a big deal. Get some techflex sleeve. https://www.google.com/webhp?source...=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8#q=techflex+sleeve&tbm=shop
     
  12. Woundtight

    Woundtight New Member

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    That is a nice board^^^
     
  13. stevan5150

    stevan5150 New Member

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    Thanks man

    Also to add to another post above this.....Forget tech flex, get a PedalSnake modular pedal board cable. Its a lifesaver
     
  14. sergiodeblanc

    sergiodeblanc Get in, loser, we’re going shopping.

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    Why not? Is it a polarity issue?
     
  15. vchizzle

    vchizzle Birdman.

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    Had one a long time ago, I wasn't happy with the quality of the cable or jacks. Maybe they're better now.
     
  16. iR4lf

    iR4lf New Member

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    The Archon uses a custom 5 pin cable, you have to have it custom made for the GCX/Ground Control. Otherwise it just does not work. RJM has those custom cables in stock for their Amp Gizmo etc. but not this company.
     
  17. Boogie

    Boogie SuperD

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    ^^^^ That is sweet! In fact, that's the only kind of "automation" I would consider because it'll fit on my existing board and will accommodate my existing pedals. You'd still have to make the custom pigtail for the Archon, but that's it.

    Btw, this kind of stuff feeds my guitar AND tech nerd needs. Keep the ideas coming!

    [​IMG]
     
    #17 Boogie, Feb 18, 2015
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2015
  18. aristotle

    aristotle New Member

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    Very cool guys, and thanks for all of the info. I'm leaning towards using a Voodoo Hex, and making the cable for the Archon myself (it isn't very hard to do...) But I'm still looking at options.

    If I understand your solution Stevan, you have some sort of snake going from your pedal board to the amp (loop send / receive cables, guitar signal, amp control)?
     
  19. vchizzle

    vchizzle Birdman.

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    http://www.pedalsnake.com/
     
  20. aristotle

    aristotle New Member

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    Thanks!!! Checking it out as I type....
     

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