The Term “effects loop” sounds complicated. And there are a lot of explanations out there that over complicate the effects loop. I’ll try and explain the effects loop as simply as I can.
When plugging straight into an amplifier the signal is essentially going in front of the amp and is being affected by the pre amp and power amp of the amplifier itself. We then us the EQ knobs on the amp to tweak the sound to our liking.
When using guitar pedals, we plug into the pedals first and then into the amp. This is called putting the pedals in front of your amp. Therefore we are affecting the sound of the signals before it hits the amp.
The effects loop is just like the loop that you’d put in front of your amp only the signal comes after the preamp and power amp.
Distortion pedals usually go in the front of the amp while delays and reverbs go in the effects loop after the dirt to maintain its qualities. Putting reverbs and delays in front of the amp, the sound tends to get messy.
The idea of practicing guitar at any time at any volume you wish is essentially the crux or basis of this blog that I have started. I do however tend to shy away from writing posts about items of gear that I’ve never used or tried. It is unfair to you, the reader to take advice from a writer talking about a particular subject that he/she has no personal experience or knowledge about.
The reason I am talking about this is because the topic of this post is Attenuators. An exceptionally important piece of kit when it comes to live, practicing and achieving great bedroom guitar tone. However I have never owned an attenuator nor have I ever tried one. I’ve never owned one because in order for it to be effective, you need a really decent attenuator which are really expensive. The cheaper attenuators apparently take a lot of the tone away while the good ones keep the tone while reducing the volume. The reason I’ve never tried one is because I live in South Africa and our options are limited in comparison to what is available in the USA and Europe.
Taking this into account, I have decided that the attenuator is such a necessary piece of gear to talk about in relation to this blog, that I have searched the Internet to find you the best articles and videos explaining this piece of kit.
Choosing the correct practice amp could possibly be one of the most effective ways to achieve great bedroom guitar tone. After all, this is where the sound is coming from. Back when I started out playing guitar, there were barely any decent practice amps around. I distinctly remember my first practice amp was a 10w Laney Hardcore Max. It wasn’t necessarily a bad sounding amp but it had minimal features in comparison to what’s out there these days.
There are so many options today when it comes to practice amps. Not only are there a lot of options but a lot of different features too. Some manufacturers even have various different practice amps as part of their line up. For example, Vox has a stellar range of practice amps. So does Line 6 and many other manufacturers. There are also plenty good tube amps out there that are also great for practicing and bedroom playing.
I will explore the different practice amps I think are best for achieving great bedroom tone. The amps that will be discussed, I’ve owned and still do own some.
Orange Micro Terror & Micro Dark Terror With Small Cabinet
The micro terror series are really versatile amps. They can be used for bedroom practice, band practice and live gigs. Both of them are 20 watt solid-state amplifiers with a valve in the pre amp. The amp heads are so small they could just about fit on your pedal board. Besides for the Dark Terror being well, darker there are two differences between the two amps. The first is that the Dark terror has an emulated output so you can go straight into a mixing desk or into headphones. The second is that the Dark Terror has an effects loop. You can choose to get these with or without the mini cabinet. For practicing and getting good bedroom tone I’d definitely say the dark terror is your best bet. As I said, it has an emulated output so you can jam along with headphones. It also has an effects loop so you can use the volume pedal and/or equaliser pedal to control the volume while the amp is still cranked as I’ve talked about in my blog.
Laney Cub 12 Combo
This is an amp that I actually own and use for gigs and practice all the time. It is called the “Cub 12” which would suggest it is a 12 Watt amp. However the 12 actually refers to the 12 inch driver of the amp. The amp is 15 watts. Laney does make a 10 Watt version of this amp which is also really good but for bedroom guitar tone and practice I’ve decided to go with the 12. There are 3 main reasons for this:
The effects loop. If you’ve read some of my earlier blog posts you’ll notice I talk about this a lot as a great tool for practicing with tube amps.
EQ: The Cub 12 has tone, bass, middle, treble, gain, volume and reverb. It’s 10 watt counter part only has tone, gain and volume.
15w & 1w Inputs: The best feature of the amp for practicing and bedroom guitar tone is it has two input options. The first is a 15 watt option and the second is a 1 watt option. The 1 watt option is good for practicing and will make your neighbors much happier.
Vox Valvetronix AD30
There are so many options in this range I have completely lost track. Vox have brought out I believe three versions of this range in the ten years. I’ll talk about the first range of Valvetronix amps because I own one. The range comes in 15, 30, 50, 100 watt options. All of which have the same interface, only the wattage is different. The greatest feature of this amp if that at the back, there is a knob that allows you to change the wattage of the amplifier. The amp also has a master volume. With these features, you can crank your amp as much as you want and still not annoy your neighbors or wake up your household. I used to own the 100 watt version which is massive but I used it for band practices so I always had enough volume and control over the volume wherever my band was practicing. Features include among others:
11 amp models and 11 effects with tap tempo
2 writable channels
Preset and manual mode
Fender Mustang Amp
This is basically Fender’s version of the Valvetronix. A lot of amp manufacturers have a similar type of thing in their range. The list for these types of amps goes on and on. Also, they keep improving by the year with more and more features so it is sometimes very hard to keep up. I’ve never owned this Fender mustang amp but I’ve tried it multiple times and is one of the very few modeling amps that have stood out to me for bedroom playing and practicing. As I am not very well equipped to talk about this amp I’ll leave you with a Video by Fender explaining it better than I can.