While the Headrush FX Boards are very powerful devices, at the end of the day your tone is going to come down to your personal preference. In this guide we're going to outline a few common external FX types and where to place them in conjunction with your pedal board; and fixing a few common problems to clean up your sound if the gain threshold is getting too high.
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Gain staging and Headrush
To begin, your Headrush tends to treat FX much the same way Analog pedals would- Your guitar will have some gain, the input can potentially have gain, each distortion pedal will multiply that gain, each amplifier will multiply that, some effects will further multiply it and as it exits your speaker will potentially multiply that further. It is very easy to lose control of your signal and start feeding back or worse as you add effects; but it is not a sign that you have immediately broken anything; so feel free to keep experimenting even after achieving feedback with these simple steps:
On every single rig, there is an input block. These blocks will have controls related to your incoming guitar signal and also have a gate for keeping feedback at bay. Adjusting the threshold on this scene so that your guitar at rest will send a signal below the gate and be muted. Likewise, if your guitar cannot seem to get quieter notes, this is a sign your threshold may be too high, as it stops listening for those quieter notes and fades.
Alongside this are effects built into your board for compression and a separate noise gate effect to be added to your rigs. If you notice something is really going out of whack, adding one of these can be a powerful tool to squash frequencies unnatural to your instrument and bring back some of that peaking signal back into check. These should be placed close to the end of your rig for maximum effect.
There are 3 places that you can place external effects- Before your board, in the FX loop, and after your board. Let's look at these individually.
Before your board.
Best placement or- specialized gain or distortion pedals, white boost, effects you want the board to add color to like Digital Delay or Drop Tuning or Filters that have their own distortion built in.
The reason for this is that if something is coming in too hot for the board you can squash it at the noise gate right on the way in, and meanwhile. anything that you would want to get colored by amps or distortion within the board's internal fx will sound a lot cleaner. A note coming in at -5 half steps then distorted will sound better than a distorted note that gets pitched down -5 steps, for example.
If you find yourself unable to get the noise gate high enough to suss out your feedback, you're going to need to pull down your input gain to compensate for how powerful the signal coming in is. This will allow the signal to distort less without closing up the sound like a straight volume drop would be.
In the FX Loop.
Best placement for- Amps, clean filters like Phaser or Tremolo, Wah pedal, Talk Box and chorus.
These are effects that you want the color of to be mixed among your internal fx for placement. Maybe it's something like your amplifier has a specific tube sound that you enjoy, maybe it's something like a Talk Box that you just need sound and a microphone to get into the unit(NOTE: a talk box is going to need a dynamic microphone with a 1/4 inch connection to complete the loop); but either way anything you want before compression and reverb are going to go in here.
This is the most common place to have gain staging problems, as it's not simple to snuff out a gain issue from this spot, forcing you to go through your external FX one by one. Especially since many modern day wah and envelope filters will include a gain "fuzz" setting on them, which will stack on your gain even if just a little. While a separate compressor or noise gate can be invaluable here for a temporary solution, once your signal is at the feedback level even your note tails will feed back, making sussing out the signal resistant to quick fixes.
After the Board.
Placement for- Studio FX rack processing, Reverb, Tape Echo, etc.
These are effects that generally you aim for finishing off. In the studio, an engineer will apply them in post-production, but on a gig, you may want to compensate for a small room by using a tape echo to fatten out your sound. External compressors and rack-mounted effects will probably go here for you too; as rack-mounted gear can have their own way of dealing with gain staging that you won't want the Headrush interfering with. Generally, most of these effects won't add anything to your gain staging, but you also don't want your Headrush coloring them.
And that's it! Whether you are a customer or dealer, if you already own a HeadRush product, or if you just have a pre-sales question, the HeadRush technical support team is available to help! Visit the link below to connect with any of the following support options: online community, support, phone support, email support.