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Electric Guitar without Amp? (plugging straight into mixer)
MUFF WIGGLER Forum Index -> Guitars, Basses, Amps & FX  
Author Electric Guitar without Amp? (plugging straight into mixer)
A few months ago I inherited an electric guitar (ESP Viper-100) and practice amp (Orange Crush) and quickly became uninspired trying to learn it because I didn't care for the sound. The guitar sounded good unplugged but amped up it just sounded not that great to me. I have no experience with electric guitars and the only other experience I have with string instruments is that I play the Ukulele.

Yesterday on a whim I got it out plugged it into my WMD Geiger Counter module to mess around and all the sudden the guitar sounded awesome. I quickly found myself turning off all the bit crushing, sample rate reducing, and wave table effects and only playing with the preamp. This go me experimenting around with overdriving a chain of moogerfoogers and going straight into a mixer and it sounded great. Even the clean signal through just the mixer sounded better to me than the clean signal through the Orange Crush.

So here is my question is can i just ditch amps and cabinets all together and just use distortion pedals into a mixer? Is this a viable option or am I just ignorant? (soundwise I want the guitar to have a modern rock sound, specifically 90's-00's punk and metal).
I have a Deluxe Viper 1000, not sure how it compares spec wise to the non-Deluxe (I think it's just small things like inlays on the fret board and binding). The pickups are active. I bought it for a more heavy style of playing (compared to my Rickenbacker and Gretsch). I think it feels great to play. Tone-wise I think it's ok. I'm not sure about the Orange Crush, but I've never used a practice amp that I loved the tone of. When I record any of my guitars I use a Mesa Boogie Recording Preamp, instead of mic'ing an amp. Run my Rhodes through it too. I think in the end it's all about impedance matching. I don't think you need an amp, though a nice Fender tube based amp is a thing of beauty (I have an early 90s American made Blues Deville). For me, avoiding the mic'ing headache makes life easier for the time being. There are some really nice and affordable pedals that are preamp/EQ type units. I believe MXR makes one. Sansamp has a few. Orange actually makes one too.

These always intrigued me but I never took the plunge: id=1230869&gclid=Cj0KEQjwv467BRCbkMvs5O3kioUBEiQAGDZHLyxgEdsoPUvyytdyt Q0WJ7bKiPkHLN6opwM3IeK6_nUaAjtF8P8HAQ

So no, I don't think you're crazy. Look around and you'll find something great. You don't even need a cab simulator if you don't want one. I do find that adding a little reverb makes it sound a little more natural. And I have a WMD Geiger Counter pedal; it does wonders on a guitar. I think you'll find running your guitar through the modular very satisfying. I don't do it nearly enough, but now that I have a Streams, I think I'll do it a lot more often.
Those Orange Crush amps are actually pretty good for what they are, but they are still a practice amp, you can't expect to get much of a sound from them.

As far as the effects chain goes, use it by all means! After all, the moogerfoogers are guitar pedals, though most people probably don't use them as ones. And unless you invest quite a bit of money into a good amp head and cabinet, plugging it straight into a mixer is your best option in my opinion.

There is a lot of debate among guitar players on the subject of plugging a guitar straight into a mixer and many, many people will say that it's just plain wrong. But if you like the sound - hey, why not!

I don't have a proper guitar amp and cabinet and I use homemade pedals to shape the sound and then it goes straight into a mixer. And it sounds OK for what I need on the rare occasion that I actually play live. But for recording I usually resort to using Guitar Rig 5 for virtual amps and cabinets. It's not the best option but it's fairly cheap.

If you are just practising then it doesn't really matter, as long as you like what you're hearing. If you're playing live, expect to get some weird looks but as far as sound is concerned it's probably good enough. If it's for recording, I suggest adding at least a cabinet simulator of some sort. Or not, it's breaking the rules that leads to innovation

One last note, if you're serious about recording, invest in a DI box to split the signal coming from your guitar and record your guitar's raw output alongside the output from the FX chain. If you later realize you don't like the sound, it's much easier to just send the recorded raw sound through the FX chain again than to re-record everything
since my speaker cabinets got ripped off a few months back i've just been playing guitar through modular synthesizers. the bugbrand system has a nice dual preamp module with 1/4" inputs that provides plenty enough gain that i like a lot. it also has nice sounding distortion, delay, audio-rate s/h (a.k.a. 'bug crusher'), filters, etc.

between it and the metasonix modules i have in eurorack format, i'm fairly confident i could dial in some fairly compelling 90's-00's punk and metal sounds (although the guitar and its pick-ups also play significant roles in this equation).

you will need a preamp somewhere (if your mixer doesn't have them, or you don't like how the ones on the mixer sound) to get the instrument signal up to line-level. tech 21 sansamp and rocktron widow-maker might be worth checking out.

Yeah, I dunno. I think you can get pretty good tone out of not very expensive amps (second hand). There's a handful of decent Fender combos that you can get for $500 or so. Some of them are made in Mexico but to me they sound pretty damn good. For me it was mainly a volume issue; at very low settings, the tone sounded like shit, and then once you hit 3 or so there's a big jump in the volume. I think a lot of the Fender combos are like that. But I think a good amp can be had for a reasonable price.

Honestly I had trouble finding a bass amp that I loved at a reasonable price. I ended up with an Ampeg SVT head and 4x10 cabinet. Not as affordable. But sounds great. Also not great in terms of low volumes.
sloth713 wrote:

So here is my question is can i just ditch amps and cabinets all together and just use distortion pedals into a mixer? Is this a viable option or am I just ignorant? (soundwise I want the guitar to have a modern rock sound, specifically 90's-00's punk and metal).

If the sound makes you happy, why not? I assume you're running your guitar pedals into one of the mixer preamps.

I tried running guitar into Boss SD-1 (Super Overdrive) then into mixer mic input (w/ preamp) and I actually liked that sound myself.
In a word - yes. Especially if you're just noodling around, or recording a part. If you were playing "a show" you might be frustrated that you always sound the same, and you would need to modify multiple things like guitar knobs+pedal/preamp+mixer to get much variation in sound.

You lose the tube amp dynamics (if you have a tube amp) and it's obviously not going to sound like a pre-amp -> power amp -> speaker set up, but it can sound good.

I have had fun recording or playing through fuzz boxes into mixer->monitors.
Rockin' Banana! Thank you so much everyone we're not worthy

So it seems probably the best thing for me would to look into some kind of distortion pedal with a pre amp. Should I look into a distortion, overdrive, or fuzz pedal? The pigtronix disnortion looks interesting because it covers alot of ground, any thoughts on it or other pedal recommendations for my needs.

Or should i look into amp modeling stuff like Line 6 or the Atomic Amplifire?

I am unsure if iI am going to keep sticking with guitar so I don't want to sink too much money into it
If you could find something like this for guitar I think it would be pretty awesome. I almost bought this for bass. Ended up with a sansamp pedal but always second guessed my decision. Sounded great for bass. Dunno about guitar.
Chrome Dinette
Yeah, you can do whatever you want, as long as you like the sound.

A lot of pedals can sound great right into the board.

Some patches with distortion on things like the Eventide Eclipse sound very usable going direct.

If you are playing with a cleaner tone, you may want a little compression or limiting to even out the spikiness of the direct signal.
I've done it before, and it doesn't sound like an amp or very good, but it depends what your goal is.

If you want to do black metal or ambient, it'll probably work fine.

Otherwise you might want to go for something like a H&K Red Box or DOD Gray Box. I've tried the DOD, it sounds kind of cool but not really like an amp. Or some processors also have cabinet emulators.
sloth713 wrote:
Rockin' Banana! Thank you so much everyone we're not worthy

So it seems probably the best thing for me would to look into some kind of distortion pedal with a pre amp. Should I look into a distortion, overdrive, or fuzz pedal? The pigtronix disnortion looks interesting because it covers alot of ground, any thoughts on it or other pedal recommendations for my needs.

Or should i look into amp modeling stuff like Line 6 or the Atomic Amplifire?

I am unsure if iI am going to keep sticking with guitar so I don't want to sink too much money into it

Whether you need a preamp or not depends on if your mixer has a preamp, you're already plugging your guitar into that, and you like that sound. If so, then you don't need to buy a preamp.

So if you do need a preamp check out the Tech 21 Sansamp. The choices were simpler when there was just a guitar and bass model but now there are a bunch of models. Most of them keep the idea of the original Sansamp - a guitar preamp that also gives you overdrive by "analog modeling" of a guitar amp. This is the "classic" Sansamp:

Main product line:

If you don't need a preamp, Boss pedals are a popular choice for starter "dirt" pedals - most of the overdrive and distortion pedals are relatively low-cost.

In any case, bring your guitar to a Guitar Center or similar store and try out these distortion/OD pedals and/or preamps in person.
And further to the Sansamp classic style, have a look at the character series:

If you know which flavor you like or, better yet, can demo these, you may find a fit. I really like the idea of direct guitar, and with a bit of compression and reverb, it does very well, without variability, expense, volume, noise, etc.
While we're throwing in votes for for dirt pedals gotta throw in some love for Dwarfcraft, Walrus Audio, and Blackout Effectors.
I would love to be able to afford a good preamp and cabinet, one day, but for now, issues of space and neighbours also make it difficult. At first I bought an Orange Micro Dark Terror, because I thought an electric guitar must at least have a preamp… and because it allows me to plug headphones, to practice. At least that was the idea. In practice, with headphones, it’s so noisy that I find it unusable. And to my surprise, my guitar sounds as good or better through an NI Audio 6 (which I had shelved for some time) or the Black Locus (to connect to the modular). The Dark Terror sounds good, but to my ears nothing I cannot replicate and even improve with a Metasonix F-1 or the Geiger Counter. There are also some interesting preamp pedals out there. That Earthquaker’s Acapulco Gold, for example, sounds interesting… But, of course, if I could afford a Sunn Model T, I would feel sorry for anyone who comes and tells me that they sound the same.
My current fave OD pedal is my Fryette SOS, which I've also used as a preamp for my viola pickup (low gain settings). I also have some boutique fuzz pedals that I like

However the OP is really new to the guitar thing and is not even sure if he wants to stick with guitar, so I just recommended stuff that's more affordable. The orange-colored Boss distortion pedal is $30 new for example.
A good portion of the guitar sounds in Ratatat's first 2 albums were a Proco Rat directly into the mixer. It has a slightly synthy sound, but I recorded a track with my BYOC Mouse way, and it's pretty sweet. (The nice thing about the Mouse is that it has 6 different settings using various semiconductors to get different OD/Distortion type sounds).

The Sansamp GT-2 is also really nice for both guitar and bass.
While everyone can red pedals they own or enjoy, if you want to get a semi-amp'ish tone I'd take a look at overdrives that are supposed to help sound like a particular amp, like the Wampler "black '65" or "plexi drive" other makers have other stuff that's supposed to help a clean backline amp sound like a particular fender/marshall/mesa/etc

They're going to color your tone more like a preamp of a particular amp. If you buy something like a tubescreamer... all that's going to do is cut your mids and give you some gain. The SansAmp stuf is also a good bet.

Also if you want to drop some coin, the Ethos line of preamps are really nice and do the "Dumble" thing. I think he even makes one now that actually has a solid state power amp in it too, so you could plug it straight into a cab if you wanted to play loud. Expensive, but potentially better than a "real" amp that you neevr crank up.
While we're at it I may as well recommend the current recording preamp I'm using: Mesa Boogie Rectifier Recording Preamp. Not cheap, but I think I found mine second hand for $600-$700. Not cheap, and new costs twice that. But it sounds fantastic. If you ever get to the point where you're committed and want to drop the dough. I see AMT makes pedal that's supposed to model the Rectifier for much less. No personal experience with it, but I agree, a pedal that models a specific amp might be a good starting point if you don't want to spend cash. My personal experience with the Sansamp line was very pleasant. But that was with bass.
Also, the Strymon Big Sky had a cab sim that's decent. And if you don't stick with guitar it's useful with plenty of other instruments.
Direct is fine, whatever it takes to get a sound you like that works. Worked for the Beatles on some tracks.

The JHS ColourBox is supposed to be like plugging directly into a console, but it's not cheap.

I use a couple different "amp" pedals into a Torpedo CAB to smooth off the rough edges and make it sound more like a recording of an amp. Works very well. Not the same, but not bad since there are many speakers and mics to pick from. Not exactly the same as EQing too.

Bassists plug straight in all the time, why not guitars too? Rockin' Banana!
Live, you will find "straight into mixer" monumentally FRUSTRATING if your foldback is crap or non-existant.
Sinamsis wrote:
While we're throwing in votes for for dirt pedals gotta throw in some love for Dwarfcraft, Walrus Audio, and Blackout Effectors.

The EHX English Muff'n had a nice tone. I actually have one for sale in the BST forum. I originally bought it to square up my levels before going into my mixer (and for the tube tone) but I bought a Peavey Classic 30 amp and no longer need the pedal.
Ok slight update a friend of mine has been loaning me an old Korg Toneworks and I have been loving it. I have yet to find an amp preference but all them have overdrive effects are 10 times better sounding to my ears than the orange practice amp I own(even though all amps/cabs on the Toneworks sound super cheesy). Also I have a Big ky and have been playng around with the cab filter but so far I prefer the more balanced sound that inherently comes with my monitors.

Anyways I think electric guitar is here to stay in my musical repertoire and begrudgingly I am beginning to accept the rolls amps have in most electric guitar sounds. Currently I am looking to get a Sans Amp Para Driver DI even though I have no need for a DI box. This is because it seems to have decently versatile controls/sounds (more diverse and less focused then Tech21's other offerings as far as I can tell) and also the ability to power it by phantom power is super cool. What is every ones thoughts on this approach as a second step into the world of plunging an electric guitar straight into a mixing board?
recently got this:
seems that exactly the same thing is also sold under the 'yoyo' brand name.
sounds quite nice plugged staight into the mixingdesk! not as good as a well miked really good valve amp, obviously, but i wanted something compact to take along to jamsessions etc. this fits that bill just fine. also got the 'golden face' version and that one sounds a bit more agressive. use both (one left/one right) and you get a wide&fat stereo sound. i put those on a board with a line6 M5 plus a volume pedal and i'm done cool
I have not tried any of the more expensive preamp options but I sometimes plug the guitar into a Boss "Fender '65 Deluxe Reverb Amp" pedal and then into a mixer or into the computer via an interface. It's a pretty cheap preamp and sounds great in both configurations.
Due to space limitations I’m also looking for a simple way to play guitar directly into my mixer and hoping for a little guidance.

Sansamp Para Driver seems to be a favorite for this application. Last night I stumbled across the API Tranzformer GT and aside from the compressor (which would be nice) and perhaps higher quality/price tag on the API they seem like they are similar in functionality/purpose. Is this correct or does the Sansamp have some kind of cab simulation that the Tranzformer doesn’t? Ive really enjoyed the API demos I’ve heard, but most of them seem to be placing the Tranzformer before a amp and not directly into a mixer or interface.

Can anyone help me understand the difference between these two particular pedals. Any advice on the subject is appreciated. Thanks!
you need to convert the high impedance of the guitar to a low one for the mic input on your desk. even the line input (usually something like 10kOhm) is too low. you can use a di-box. they are made for that. or basically any fx-pedal. try some simple booster pedal ... often they have some eq option. and obviously a gain control. both could be handy. i often use an ART tube preamp. one of the smaller tabletop boxes. sounds great! and they are pretty cheap at thomann ... about 40 euro methinks ... now you have a good clean sound. if you want distortion, get a distortion pedal and put it in front of the preamp/di ... loads of options there.
Thanks felixer!
sloth713 wrote:
can i just ditch amps and cabinets all together and just use distortion pedals into a mixer?

I never use an amp, though I have a nice one. I either go straight into my audio interface (which does have a guitar Hi-Z mode), then add custom digital FX, or I go through my pedal chain (and/or the modular) and then into the interface.
seriously, i just don't get it I hate playing DI guitar and love the way my amp compresses and characterizes the sound. I also love how loud it is and the fact that it lets me coexist with other loud instruments like drums. I saw Nadja play with DI gtrs / basses a few months ago and the quality of the sound just didnt work for me and made me feel very angry... I really like the loud trebley fender style tube amps with spring reverb, tremolo and treble cranked up and kind of just bread and butter Les Paul, Ricky, Strat, Tele guitars. I guess I'm a bit of a boring asshole and the beatles recorded bass and other stuff DI so you should to w/ guitar....

I would suggest looking at what goes into the signal chains for the guitar sounds you like, trying amps out at stores to see how they play and yeah tinker with DI stuff but have something to compare it to. I personally don't enjoy it but I also don't enjoy playing through Marshall style amps that squash and compress your sound in a different way. I have a fuzz pedal for that seriously, i just don't get it I enjoy the sounds of marshal-type amps when other guitarists play them and have heard a few uses of DI guitar that seem funny, deliberate or interesting.

DI bass sounds fine for the most part especially for recording purposes and to give the soundguy more control in a live setting but feel like everyone's guitar suggestions on this page have randomly triggered me. I might record guitars DI and reamp them later if I want to play with a weird combination of amps and mics, keep more of the sound out of the room or just have the raw signal to run into an amp etc...

Get a loud tube amp w/ a spring reverb, or jazz chorus, or sustainy marshall type amp and stop plugging your guitar into plasticky akai / studio monitor type stuff seriously, i just don't get it
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