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Multi Effects A to Z

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Or multi for dummies if you prefer. 

Recent chat with @Al Krow and @dannybuoy revealed to me that I know next to nothing about the world of multi effects once we get beyond the Harley Benton / Zoom price point.

As lockdown and illness has all but destroyed my gigging life (hopefully not forever) I've shifted focus to lessons, learning to sight read, and toys. By toys I of course mean effects. 

So let's gather the enormous knowledge of the Basschat Massive into an easy understand pro and con type list covering any multi effects that you care to mention. 

 

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By the way, I know there are threads dedicated to certain pedals already. I was thinking more for those considering buying. 

Just straight forward pros cons maybe? Should be enough to stimulate conversation on specific areas. 

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To get the ball rolling, here's some thoughts I recently posted on another thread:

There does seem to be a nice hierarchy of price and capability evolving in the current 'compact' and 'super compact'  multi-fx space and you can slot in at the right level for your individual requirements:

Compact

  • DG / Neural DSP (not yet released)
  • Fractal FM3
  • Boss SY 1000

Super Compact

  • Boss GT 1000 Core
  • Headrush
  • Helix Stomp / HF Effects
  • Zoom B1-4

Obviously plenty I've missed off that list (e.g. the larger Helix LT and Floor which are perhaps too big to be described as "compact", Mooer GE Series, Hotone Ampero, the older Zooms and Line 6 pedals + others)

Cost / value / capability obviously won't be linear though i.e. you can pay a fair bit more for a marginal improvement, for the same reason why a £2,000 bass is never going to be 400% better than a decent £500 bass!

The entry point here is a Zoom B1-4 which is around £65 to your door and, having had both, I can say that the Stomp / Helix HX Effects is definitely a big step up but certainly not a 6x better product than the Zoom.

For me capability is a function of a number of factors including:

DSP (which often dictates the quality of the simulated effects); the availability and quality of individual effect sims; quality and easy to use PC editing software; ease and flexibility in being able to use live - decent display, access to individual effects pedals, more rather fewer stomp switches; built in synth engine.

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I've got the Headrush Gigboard. I was looking at the HX Stomp, but for one patch covering 90% of my sounds I needed four switches. And then the Headrush came up on Andertons for £350, ex-demo, so I thought I'd give it a try. 

It's so easy to use - it's got a big touch screen where you can tap on empty blocks, select what you want to go in, drag them around to change order, etc.  Then there's one big knob (😐) to help with fine tuning where dragging your finger across the bar isn't giving enough control. Even when playing live, you can switch between modes, through patches, control the looper, etc, with the foot switches. 

Pros:

  • Easy to use - you don't need to set it up patches on your computer, just plug in your bass and speaker/headphones and off you go.
  • Quality of sounds. It's great - after coming from a Zoom B3 this sounds so much better.  The octave tracks really well, the distortions sound aweome (I've split my sound to have a distorted guitar amp mixed with my bass amp), everything can be tweaked to what you're looking for. 
  • Well built
  • Very customisable - one switch can control a single effect, or multiple effects & amps etc. Different signal paths options.  
  • USB audio interface - record direct, or record clean and re-amp later. 
  • Looper
  • Ability to load IRs (the Markbass 212 sounds way better than the default cab sims to me)
  • Exactly the same abilities as the big Headrush Pedalboard,  just less switches and I/O. You can still add a separate expression pedal.

Cons:

  • Very guitar focused - Only a couple of bass specific amps (mostly Ampeg) and effects compared to 30+ for guitar. However, the ones it's got are all I need, and I've never not been able to find the tone I'm looking for via a combination of amp, EQ, cab or IR.
  • Limited effects list compared to the B3 (though most of those I'd never use. All of the Headrush effects are usable and sound good).
  • No DI out. At the price, and sound of the unit, I'd expect one. Maybe because it's guitar focused?
  • Cost - this goes for all of the multi effects / amp modeller pedals, but I'd struggle to justify the £500-£1500 for these Helix, AxeFX, Headrush pedals for my limited use of a couple of tones, a few effects and something to practice and record through. For a cover band guitarist with patches for every song, I can absolutely see the value. At the £350 I paid, I'm very happy with it. 

13526286_800.jpg

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I am curious on the Hotone Ampero (particularly the smaler and a bit cheaper Ampero One).

On paper it looks good.

Say how would this compare to the Zoom multi effect?

Edited by Baloney Balderdash

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I recorded and gigged with a Zoom B3 for a few years, and about a year and a half ago upgraded to an HX Stomp. 

B3 Pros

* Dead simple to use with the pseudo individual pedal layout

* Cheap as chips

* Seemingly indestructible

* In a band mix it's hard to pretend that anyone listening would be able to tell the difference between a DI'd B3 and a rig costing ten times as much

B3 Cons

* Ummm... I guess a few things sound a touch "lifeless" when playing through headphones at home? Still, if you can't enjoy the sound of a B3 then I can't relate

 

HX Pros

* Sounds better than I have any right to

* Parallel routing options are a lovely bonus

* If you ever play one of those awful squeeky six string basses in the wrong octave it's still amazing

* For me it replaced every bit of sound processing gear I have except my WMD bitcrusher

* So tiny it is crazy

HX Cons

* Expensive

* A touch fiddly to use until you get used to it

* Though it's not happened, I worry that those multi-function encoders could be killed in action one day, and impossible to fix for a reasonable price.

 

To conclude, if you have the money I would highly recommend the HX. I love it to pieces and it's killed my GAS totally for 18+ months.

If you don't have the money, buy a used B3 or another modern Zoom product and get to playing. They're more than good enough for anyone. 

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37 minutes ago, soldersqueeze said:

Parallel routing options are a lovely bonus

This interests me. I'm a big fan of running effects in parallel rather than have each preceding effect affect the ones front of it. 

My only concern with the Helix is whether (with my reduced ability to concentrate hard for long spells) I will actually hook it up to the computer and really get stuck into it. 

I loved trying to learn and understand my Future Impact when I first got it, but since starting to struggle I seldom go through the rigmarole of connecting it up because I know within a quarter of an hour I'll be done. 

This is why the TCE Plethora X5 appeals to me. Not because I think it's better, I don't, but because I suspect I'll get the best out of it more easily. 

 

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I was just about to add an extra "pro" to the HX as an edit, and that is that you can access every effect, every parameter, every option without hooking it up via bluetooth to a tablet, phone or computer. The PC editor is nice to use, but if you just have the unit in front of you you aren't being limited. 

Honestly that's why I would never want the Plethora or any of the new Source Audio pedals. The idea of not being able to use my gear to it's full capabilities without extra (quite expensive) toys really bugs me.

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4 hours ago, soldersqueeze said:

I was just about to add an extra "pro" to the HX as an edit, and that is that you can access every effect, every parameter, every option without hooking it up via bluetooth to a tablet, phone or computer. The PC editor is nice to use, but if you just have the unit in front of you you aren't being limited. 

Honestly that's why I would never want the Plethora or any of the new Source Audio pedals. The idea of not being able to use my gear to it's full capabilities without extra (quite expensive) toys really bugs me.

Fair comment, thank you.

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I'll be following this see if you can induce enough GAS for me to upgrade my Zoom B1on, tried the B3 couldn't tell any difference in the effects I use, mostly distortion and EQ

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Helix HX Effects would allow you to create upto128 "boards" of 6 individual "pedals" and each of these "pedals" can be switched on or left off as desired with 6 individual stomp switches.

Or alternatively you could have 128 tailored patches for particular songs that you could then put in the running order of your gigs and just scroll through 32 banks of effects in blocks of 4.

Or any combination in between!

Parallel or series / cross over options.

It also has two external parallel loops for incorporating your existing pedals as well as midi connectivity.

Should keep even you out of mischief, for a while, Stew!

And all that for less than £300 used. 

@PaulWarning how am I doing on the GAS induction front? I'm a massive fan of the Zoom pedals, as you probably already know. But Helix does take things to the next level.

Edited by Al Krow

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5 minutes ago, Al Krow said:

 

@PaulWarning how am I doing on the GAS induction front? I'm a massive fan of the Zoom pedals, as you probably already know. But Helix does take things to the next level.

I'm sure they do, but it's the old, is a MIA Fender 5 or 6 times better then a Squire argument? would anybody be able to tell the difference in a gig situation, very doubtful.

I'll keep an eye on the 2nd hand market

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7 minutes ago, PaulWarning said:

I'll be following this see if you can induce enough GAS for me to upgrade my Zoom B1on, tried the B3 couldn't tell any difference in the effects I use, mostly distortion and EQ

I reckon the best 'distortions' for bass on the HX Stomp are the overdriven amp sims.

Apart from a very usable Sansamp clone the actual distortion section is all (I think) based on guitar pedals , they're far from terrible on bass, but for me the amp sims have more 'oomph'.

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21 minutes ago, Al Krow said:

external parallel loops

Are these definitely parallel, and do they each take up one of your 6 on/off footswitches? 

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3 minutes ago, PaulWarning said:

I'm sure they do, but it's the old, is a MIA Fender 5 or 6 times better then a Squire argument? would anybody be able to tell the difference in a gig situation, very doubtful.

I'll keep an eye on the 2nd hand market

Depending on which effects, actually yes an audience, your band and you would notice.

DSP on Helix >> Zoom and this is key to better quality emulations. It's why the high end multi-fx (Fractal etc.) have seriously impressive chips at the their core.

Try a pitch shift on Zoom and you'll get an unusable latency riddled sound. Helix handles effortlessly. Similarly if you ever fancy emulating a Royal Blood layered sound - well good luck on Zoom (no chance in my experience). Helix just about manages, particularly if you make use of parallel routing (series only in Zoom).

But if you're just going for simple dirt and EQ, well I agree Zoom will likely get you there and no particular need to shell out for the better quality Helix.

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12 minutes ago, PaulWarning said:

I'm sure they do, but it's the old, is a MIA Fender 5 or 6 times better then a Squire argument? would anybody be able to tell the difference in a gig situation, very doubtful.

I have committed my heretical views to print here before, but it bears repeating. No one in any audience is remotely aware of the nuanced differences we agonise over. No one. 

In fact if Joanne Public was privy to the way we bang on about this string sounding woodier than that string and so forth, they'd assume they'd stumbled into a blog for a giant lunatic asylum. 

I am quite happy in the knowledge that I do all this to please one person. Me. 

I played the latter half of a second set with a broken amp once. Still made a noise in response to me plucking a string but not a musical noise. A kind of mechanical fa®t noise. No one noticed. Not band members, audience or my mate who was paying me close attention at the time. Taught me a valuable lesson. 

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Got to admit to being a fan of the Line6 ranges, would love to get a Helix, but in reality, they're a bit too expensive for me to justify. I know the HX Stomp is the most reasonable, and then there's the new Pod Go, which uses the same model sets, but with some functionality compromises. However, they both have limited connectivity compared to the full fat Helix Floor and the Helix LT (which would be my choice).

My vote (and money) is with the POD HD500x. All the connectivity of the LT, limited bass model set, but they sound great IMO. Bargain buy second hand, but still available new. You do have to buy the separate HD Bass pack to use it with bass, but it's not that expensive, and well worth the money. Plus if you play guitar as well, there's plenty of choice sounds to play with.

The Boss GT10B, GT6B, GT1B, ME50B, etc. all have a good reputation. 

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I've got a couple of older multi effects pedals, but I don't use them much anymore. I used a Line 6 M5 when I was doing regular cruise work, so that I could still have some effects without taking a bunch of pedals. I got some really good sounds out of it.

I've also got a Roland V Bass which is really cool, but I've never really dug too deep in to it. That kind of sums up my issue with a few pedals right now. I'm interested in the HX Stomp, but I really don't want to have to hook a pedal up to a computer to program sounds and get the most out of. That's the same reason I haven't looked at pedals like the Source Audio C4 too.

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I find the Zoom B3n fine for my needs. I have one basic patch, with a mild comp, a filter, an octave and a wee bit chorus. I keep the comp off screen, and the other three in view as stomps to turn on or off. Works for me, as a reformed guitar player. I had a huge pedal board when I played guitar in a function/covers band, and I hated all the tap dancing. 
Having said that, I do enjoy making distant-galaxy style ambient patches to use when I play with my big-donkey Boss looper (RC-300, accept no substitute).

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8 minutes ago, songofthewind said:

Can I just say, the profanity filter on this forum is hilarious. Big-donkey, indeed!

God I hate it so much. 

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Anyone else see this ad for a Line 6 Pod? I have censored it because I know how delicate BC is where every day English is concerned. Hopefully the impact isn't spoiled too much. 

Screenshot_20201116_142337.thumb.jpg.51230f56ba871ab1c2a823fe4f7c1c5b.jpg

I'm sure the seller will have got some sympathetic nods around here. Just imagine him opening the software for a Future Impact 🤯

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On 13/11/2020 at 17:37, Al Krow said:

Depending on which effects, actually yes an audience, your band and you would notice.

DSP on Helix >> Zoom and this is key to better quality emulations. It's why the high end multi-fx (Fractal etc.) have seriously impressive chips at the their core.

Try a pitch shift on Zoom and you'll get an unusable latency riddled sound. Helix handles effortlessly. Similarly if you ever fancy emulating a Royal Blood layered sound - well good luck on Zoom (no chance in my experience). Helix just about manages, particularly if you make use of parallel routing (series only in Zoom).

But if you're just going for simple dirt and EQ, well I agree Zoom will likely get you there and no particular need to shell out for the better quality Helix.

While the Helix unquestionably delivers more convincing models than the Zoom, I've gigged using both the pitch shift on the Zoom MS-60B and the Helix Stomp. While playing them in an isolated context the Helix is more refined and has less of a chorus like edge but the Zoom is still perfectly usable and is indistinguishable from the Stomp in the mix, IME. 

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7 minutes ago, Osiris said:

While the Helix unquestionably delivers more convincing models than the Zoom, I've gigged using both the pitch shift on the Zoom MS-60B and the Helix Stomp. While playing them in an isolated context the Helix is more refined and has less of a chorus like edge but the Zoom is still perfectly usable and is indistinguishable from the Stomp in the mix, IME. 

Love to hear a clip of both from you. You're obviously getting a much better result from your MS-60B than I am from my B1-4 on pitch shift!

(Or your definition of "perfectly usable" is a different one to mine - which could be equally true and equally valid).

Edited by Al Krow

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IF anyone is interested in an overview of what various effects are and how they work, check out my monthly columns in Bass Guitar Magazine / Bass Player Magazine since January! 

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