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Thread: Great Clean Sound But Poor Distortion With OD/Distortion Pedals

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    Great Clean Sound But Poor Distortion With OD/Distortion Pedals

    Amp is a DIY combo amp that is a cross between a 5F1 and AX84 P1 Extreme. Single ended 6V6 output, single 12AX7 preamp, solid state diode rectifier, no tone stack, switchable cathode by-pass caps, global feedback, and a single Eminence Texas Heat (99.4 dB sensitivity) 12" speaker. I built it about 7 years ago and it has always powered up and worked properly other than the bad distortion with OD/Distortion pedals. I've built several tube amp and this is the only one with this problem

    The amp sound great clean but boosted (pedal) distortion sounds terrible. The best way I can describe it is that it sounds to Hi-Fi..unnatural speaker breakup when using an overdrive or distortion pedal at all output levels. I've tried other speaker cabs and same issue arise so, my guess is the issue lies within the circuit and may be a matter of upping input grid resistor values at the cost of losing treble. The current preamp input grid resistor values are 1st stage: 33k , second stage 220k with a paralled 100 pF bypass cap. Output stage input grid resistor is 10K.

    Any suggestions, please?

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    Last edited by HR_Puffinblunts; 04-12-2019 at 08:02 PM.

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    Don't forget the joker g1's Avatar
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    I was going to say "why don't you ask Freddy the freakin' magic flute already" but I won't do that.

    You say you have other builds without the problem, how does the input sensitivity compare to the other amps? (as in, without pedals, how high can you turn up the volume before it starts to distort)

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    Supporting Member mozz's Avatar
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    Even though i can almost picture a ax84 p1 in my head, draw it out so we can see what's there.

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    Your edit made my reply moot...but I'll keep the "welcome to the forum" ^^^^^^^^^^^schematic would help , pics maybe

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    ...or a soundclip. I was thinking 'farty' bass, but maybe not? Where's the volume control? Without a tone stack between stage 1 and stage 2, any boost in front is likely to simply "splatter" the waveform in stage 2. Oh, yeah. A schematic would help.

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    When I hear "too Hi-Fi", I think too much high frequency. Extra highs can sound good on clean guitar- not so much on distorted guitar.

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    Are you using the pedals to generate the overdrive signal, or are they providing more of a clean boost in signal level so that the overdrive occurs in the tube amp? I wouldn't expect big grid resistors to help much in the first case, but might be worth trying in the second.

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    Quote Originally Posted by g1 View Post
    I was going to say "why don't you ask Freddy the freakin' magic flute already" but I won't do that.
    Because, Freddie's Dead

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cTLQiIbDN7U

    Quote Originally Posted by g1 View Post
    You say you have other builds without the problem, how does the input sensitivity compare to the other amps? (as in, without pedals, how high can you turn up the volume before it starts to distort)
    Amp starts to naturally distort at around 60% -70% volume. Natural distortion sounds pretty nice and the sensitivity seems in line with other SE amps I've built.

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    Bent Member Chuck H's Avatar
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    At least part of the problem may be that the clipped waveform symmetry and other power tube behaviors may be getting too far out of typical or even safe operation when the front end is boosted. It's possible something about the design is allowing far too much signal to the grid of the power tube when you use the pedal the same way you have for other amps. As an aside, it may be a good thing that is sounds bad so you won't play the amp that way because if this is what's happening it could be very bad for the screen grid in the power tube.

    If you are using the pedal as a boost I might suggest that for this particular amp you don't use the pedal as you normally do. Rather, turn up the pedal distortion a bit and turn down the pedal volume a bit. Repeat until it no longer sounds harsh and ratty. I don't think you'll notice a significant decrease in overall volume in the final settings if you pay attention. It won't be the "more tube distortion" and less pedal distortion that is the goal of a "boost", but if I'm correct then you may actually damage the amp doing what you have been. Maybe not yet. Maybe not tomorrow. But soon enough.

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    Quote Originally Posted by The Dude View Post
    When I hear "too Hi-Fi", I think too much high frequency. Extra highs can sound good on clean guitar- not so much on distorted guitar.
    That is what I have been thinking as well. I also think that with not tone stack and subsequent lowered signal it may be clamping the 2nd stage input grid and causing blocking distortion: http://www.aikenamps.com/index.php/w...ing-distortion

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    Quote Originally Posted by eschertron View Post
    ...or a soundclip. I was thinking 'farty' bass, but maybe not? Where's the volume control? Without a tone stack between stage 1 and stage 2, any boost in front is likely to simply "splatter" the waveform in stage 2. Oh, yeah. A schematic would help.
    Not a case of farty bass. No-master volume and the volume control is in-between preamp stages. I agree concerning splattering waveform and I am considering adding resistance to assimilate tone stack loss...any recommendation for value(s)?

    I am trying to post a schematic but I don't see 'Photos & Albums' link or a User Control anywhere.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Chuck H View Post
    At least part of the problem may be that the clipped waveform symmetry and other power tube behaviors may be getting too far out of typical or even safe operation when the front end is boosted. It's possible something about the design is allowing far too much signal to the grid of the power tube when you use the pedal the same way you have for other amps. As an aside, it may be a good thing that is sounds bad so you won't play the amp that way because if this is what's happening it could be very bad for the screen grid in the power tube.
    Could it possibly be that since I'm using a 6V6 in place of an EL84 that the Hammond 269EX PT is supplying only 255 volts which may operate the tube at a less than optimal range?

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    Last edited by HR_Puffinblunts; 04-14-2019 at 12:06 AM.

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    That can't be right

    The schematic doesn't show any ground reference for the 6V6 grid.

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    Quote Originally Posted by tboy View Post
    The schematic doesn't show any ground reference for the 6V6 grid.
    I think I cathode biased it around 12 or 13 volts.

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    No coupling cap shown either.

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    The DC coupling of the 6V6 to the 12AX7 driver plate must be wrong. It would mean HUGE power dissipation of the 470R cathode resistor.

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    Quote Originally Posted by g1 View Post
    No coupling cap shown either.
    Sorry, it's been about 5 years since I drew a schematic and I mistakenly left off the ground reference 220k grid leak resistor and .02 coupling cap between 2nd gain stage and output.

    Anyone listen to the Youtube clip of my amp I posted in reply #13 ?

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    Look at an Epiphone Valve Jr schematic...

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    Listening to the Youtube vid, that doesn't sound like blocking distortion. The 220k resistor at the grid of V2 and the 10K at the grid of V3 means you would need to overdrive the thing severely to get any blocking. In the vid it doesn't sound like the signal level is increasing nearly enough to cause blocking. In truth, I don't think the amp itself is distorting much at all. Most of the OD comes from the pedal (my guess from listening to the vid.)

    The fact is some amps just don't like pedals as well as other. I wish I understood why. If anyone here has any clues, please share them.

    In the mean time, you might try removing the 0.01 cap across the 220k resistor to see what happens.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tony Bones View Post
    Listening to the Youtube vid, that doesn't sound like blocking distortion. The 220k resistor at the grid of V2 and the 10K at the grid of V3 means you would need to overdrive the thing severely to get any blocking. In the vid it doesn't sound like the signal level is increasing nearly enough to cause blocking. In truth, I don't think the amp itself is distorting much at all. Most of the OD comes from the pedal (my guess from listening to the vid.)

    The fact is some amps just don't like pedals as well as other. I wish I understood why. If anyone here has any clues, please share them.
    When I initially built this amp I tried several V2 grid-stopper resistor values between 100K-1M and other than dulling tone they didn't do much to smooth distortion. I have a Blackstar ID:Core 10 (solid state) that at first thought one would think doesn't take Kokko OD and Kokko distortion pedals well but, it sounds great with them. Yet, those two pedals sound like ass with this 5w tube amp. I'd like to hear a tube distortion pedal with this amp and see if it makes a difference.

    Quote Originally Posted by Tony Bones View Post
    In the mean time, you might try removing the 0.01 cap across the 220k resistor to see what happens.
    I did that about an hour before I made that youtube video and didn't effect the distortion + or -

    I found the Texas Heat to be honky/tinny sounding when I first installed it years ago so I put it on a transformer overnight to break it in and it still didn't sound good to my ears. I then removed the speaker and used acetone to thin the doping all over the cone and that did "age" the cone and open the sound some.

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    Last edited by HR_Puffinblunts; 04-14-2019 at 07:46 PM.

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    Bent Member Chuck H's Avatar
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    I agree with Tony. It doesn't sound like blocking or too much input gain. In fact, other than a couple of sharp crackles that I took to be the mic or the recording input clipping I really don't hear what's wrong.?. Your description of "bad", "terrible", "too hi fi" and "unnatural speaker breakup" isn't coming through for me in the clip.

    I really don't like to default to the ol' "Some amps don't like pedals." type of answer. I do know that players with multiple amps and pedals always have their favorite pairings. Maybe try a different pedal for that amp.

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    Thanks everyone for the replies. Unfortunately, the video clip may not pickup the same distortion I am hearing and I'm not sure if my description of the issue is accurate enough. The only other way I can state is that when I was a teenager (1980's) my brother and I used his stereo input to plug guitars into once in a while. That terrible distorted sound the guitars made through that stereo is similar (but not as bad) as what my amp sounds like with pedals. The natural driven distortion (no pedals) is decent but not as good as I hoped and not as good as these two other builds:

    AX84 P1 (another): https://youtu.be/fSvxxU0SHn8

    Daisycutter: https://youtu.be/GraNcHM5EiQ

    Yes, I build shitty looking amps..LOL

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    Bent Member Chuck H's Avatar
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    Well my own experience doing the same thing (plugging into hi fi SS stereo gear as a teenager ) is that you get a clipped waveform that's more symmetrical and flatter across the peaks, but with slightly rounded corners. Which, BTW, perfectly describes diode clipping. As I recall it did sound cold and sterile. If you had a scope you could actually look at the wave form and see this (or not, but you'd see something).

    Maybe try just the opposite of what I mentioned before and hit the amps input harder. Turn down the distortion and turn up the drive on the pedal. If that doesn't do something to get a more wonky and peaky waveform then your amp is just way too well behaved and clipping too gracefully. Something the audiophile guys go all gooey for. Maybe due to the relatively low plate voltage. Maybe fussing with the bias could change things in this case.

    Another thought is that if you're inserting the NFB at the cathode of V1B then you have a sort of failed circuit there. Feedback would only be applied to the bass and low mids. And then only when the 1uf bypass cap is selected. With the 22uf bypass cap selected there is no feedback at all. You've probably noticed that the feedback switch doesn't do anything when you have the 22uf bypass cap selected there . Anyway... So selecting the 1uf cap with the feedback engaged is sort of like having a wide band presence control stuck on 10. And it's that or no feedback at all. Those are the only two options your circuit gives you. What you could try would be to hang a 47 ohm tail on the "B" cathode (between the existing circuit and ground). Then reduce your feedback resistor to 1k. Insert the feedback at the top of the 47 ohm resistor. This would make it so all your switches work together and you're actually applying feedback to all frequencies when it's selected for use.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Chuck H View Post
    Well my own experience doing the same thing (plugging into hi fi SS stereo gear as a teenager ) is that you get a clipped waveform that's more symmetrical and flatter across the peaks, but with slightly rounded corners. Which, BTW, perfectly describes diode clipping. As I recall it did sound cold and sterile. If you had a scope you could actually look at the wave form and see this (or not, but you'd see something).

    Maybe try just the opposite of what I mentioned before and hit the amps input harder. Turn down the distortion and turn up the drive on the pedal. If that doesn't do something to get a more wonky and peaky waveform then your amp is just way too well behaved and clipping too gracefully. Something the audiophile guys go all gooey for. Maybe due to the relatively low plate voltage. Maybe fussing with the bias could change things in this case.

    Another thought is that if you're inserting the NFB at the cathode of V1B then you have a sort of failed circuit there. Feedback would only be applied to the bass and low mids. And then only when the 1uf bypass cap is selected. With the 22uf bypass cap selected there is no feedback at all. You've probably noticed that the feedback switch doesn't do anything when you have the 22uf bypass cap selected there . Anyway... So selecting the 1uf cap with the feedback engaged is sort of like having a wide band presence control stuck on 10. And it's that or no feedback at all. Those are the only two options your circuit gives you. What you could try would be to hang a 47 ohm tail on the "B" cathode (between the existing circuit and ground). Then reduce your feedback resistor to 1k. Insert the feedback at the top of the 47 ohm resistor. This would make it so all your switches work together and you're actually applying feedback to all frequencies when it's selected for use.
    Thanks Chuck. I will add the changes you suggested and I don't have a scope. I live in a condo (as of 2014) I don't get a chance to crank the amp as much as would like to and hence no video of this amp cranked. I've tried the OD and distortion pedals at all types of settings without satisfaction. I may try re-biasing the output tube and I'm considering paralleling a 9-pin output socket to either use a 6V6 or EL84..which may sound better at the 260 plate voltage? I did that with the daisycutter by paralleling two additional 8-pin sockets and it can accommodate an EL34, 6V6, 6L6. Of course, without being in optimal operating range (max 340 plate voltage).

    As a side piece I once built a quarter-watt amp that employed a 6LY8 (pentode-triode) http://www.nj7p.org/Tubes/SQL/Tube_query.php?Type=6LY8 as a preamp and a 6LY8 (triode-pentode) as the output. It had crazy gain but I couldn't keep it from squealing (microphonics) without dulling tone too much using high value grid stoppers and a pF cap to ground on the output cathode pin (IRRC).

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    Quote Originally Posted by HR_Puffinblunts View Post
    As a side piece I once built a quarter-watt amp that employed a 6LY8 (pentode-triode) as a preamp and a 6LY8 (triode-pentode) as the output. It had crazy gain but I couldn't keep it from squealing (microphonics) without dulling tone too much using high value grid stoppers and a pF cap to ground on the output cathode pin (IRRC).
    That can be a real problem using NOS cheapies. The tubes no one else used so they can be had for peanuts. Very often they tend toward microphony in guitar amps because they were never meant to be driven and blasted like that. I've been often tempted to try the same sort of thing, but resisted the urge. The craziest thing I ever considered was a 30W Champ type single ended amp using something like an 805 tube. I ultimately decided that I like push/pull tone better for higher power and abandoned the idea. It sure would look cool though. I was going to have the power tube sticking out the top of the cabinet with a cage around it.

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    "The craziest thing I ever considered was a 30W Champ type single ended amp using something like an 805 tube"

    Yeah.

    800 Vdc supply and drive it with a 6L6.

    45 watts easy!

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    I do have a pair of NOS 807s back home... But I just gutted & restarted my last build so no new projects till I'm satisfied there! & that blasted too-quiet 6C10-filled Jet!

    Justin

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    Quote Originally Posted by Chuck H View Post
    The craziest thing I ever considered was a 30W Champ type single ended amp using something like an 805 tube. I ultimately decided that I like push/pull tone better for higher power and abandoned the idea. It sure would look cool though. I was going to have the power tube sticking out the top of the cabinet with a cage around it.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JoqDYcCDOTg

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    Bent Member Chuck H's Avatar
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    Oh, that's about a dozen deep on the back burner now. A smart, dead guy once said that " Life is what happens to you while you're making other plans."

    And the reason I said 30W (instead of 45W) is:

    1) 30W is plenty. I'd still like to hear it cranked up after all. And,..

    B) 800V B+ is more expensive than typical, lower voltage off the shelf stuff.

    I did outfit a Champ with an EL34 not long ago. It was one of those silver face models that use the same PT as the Princeton Reverb. And it's a good thing because the thing sit's cooking at idle around 19W.

    A 30W (or 45W) single ended amp could be used as a space heater

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    Quote Originally Posted by Chuck H View Post
    Oh, that's about a dozen deep on the back burner now. A smart, dead guy once said that " Life is what happens to you while you're making other plans."
    Enzo is old, but he's not dead!?!
    At least, that's who I thought said it... Sounds like him.

    Jusrin

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    "Of course that means playing **LOUD** , best but useless solution to modern sissy snowflake players." - J.M. Fahey -
    "All I ever managed to do with that amp was... kill small rodents within a 50 yard radius of my practice building." - Tone Meister -

  32. #32
    Supporting Member Jazz P Bass's Avatar
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    " Life is what happens to you while you're making other plans."

    John Lennon.
    'Beautiful Boy.'
    Written about his son Sean..

    0 Not allowed! Not allowed!

  33. #33
    Old Timer
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    No wonder I don't know it then. Never been a fan of Lennon or The Beatles...

    (Ducks flying toasters & flees angry mob)

    Justin

    1 Not allowed! Not allowed!
    "... If an older Boogie and classic Marshall had a (clearly illegitimate) child and you baked it in an oven set to clown shit crazy." - Chuck H. -
    "Of course that means playing **LOUD** , best but useless solution to modern sissy snowflake players." - J.M. Fahey -
    "All I ever managed to do with that amp was... kill small rodents within a 50 yard radius of my practice building." - Tone Meister -

  34. #34
    Bent Member Chuck H's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Justin Thomas View Post
    No wonder I don't know it then. Never been a fan of Lennon or The Beatles...

    (Ducks flying toasters & flees angry mob)

    Justin
    Nah. No flying toasters. I'm even going to save the toast (A little peckish). John wasn't my favorite Beatle either

    1 Not allowed! Not allowed!
    "Never bet your life on somebody else doing their job." SoulFetish's good friend

    "A pedal, any kind, will not make a Guitar player more dangerous than he already is." J M Fahey

    "Now get off my lawn with your silicooties and boom-chucka speakers and computers masquerading as amplifiers" Justin Thomas

    "Being born on third base and thinking that you must have hit a triple is pure delusion!" Steve A

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