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.
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.
There are two ways in which an Equalizer pedal can be used for bedroom tone. The one method tends more toward the tone as apposed to the volume of the guitar. I’ve only tried the first method but have investigated the second. I’ll explain..
1) The First Method
The first method requires any kind of equalizer pedal or processor. What we are doing here is using the EQ either in the effects loop or in front of the amp to tweak or “tune” to the room. Say for example your amps high end comes through in your room, you can use the EQ pedal to turn down those higher frequencies. Or, say you want to turn down the bass so the neighbors don’t complain. You can turn down the lower frequencies to achieve this. If your EQ pedal has a volume control like the ten band equalizer by MXR , even better.
I personally prefer using the eq pedal in the effects loop as it allows you to tweak the overall tone of the amp. Putting this pedal in front of the amp also works but I feel it changes the sounds of some of my pedals too drastically.
2) The second Method
With the second technique, you will unfortunately need an EQ that has a volume control. So you wouldn’t be able to do this with a six band EQ (unless it has a volume control). This method works pretty much exactly the same way as the volume pedal technique which you can read here. The only difference is that the one control you use with your foot and the other control is an up and down dial. I won’t go into more depth about the volume pedal technique as I’ve got a blog post about it already. In that article you can find a video that demonstrates both the EQ method and the volume pedal method.
The second method is best suited for a cranked tube amp so you can still get the gritty sound but just at a lower volume. The first method is great for cutting unwanted frequencies for both live and for your bedroom.
For a relatively cheap eq pedal that is robust and sounds good is the GE-7 by Boss
Watch the video by “That Pedal Show” explaining why you need an Equaliser pedal:
The volume pedal is an effective tool for a live scenario but not many people know that this pedal can be used to turn down the volume of your amp without loosing any gain. I have recently learned this trick from Phillip McKnight’s Youtube channel. I tried it for myself and found it really useful.
The so called secret to this trick is by putting the volume pedal in the effects loop. If you don’t know what an effects loop is you can read my simple effects loop explanation article here. By putting the pedal in the effects loop, the volume function comes after all the dirt and not in front of the amp. If you put the pedal in front of the amp, essentially you are turning down the gain. This is not cool and is the complete opposite of what we are trying to achieve. if you want to practice guitar, at night with a high gain sound, put the volume pedal in the effects loop.
The volume pedal allows you to adjust the volume to the suit your level and you can practice high gain leads or riffs etc at night or whenever you want. I would say one thing, I’d never really use this for a clean sound. I feel the volume on the amp is adequate for practicing for a clean sound but thats just my personal opinion. I think this technique is best suited for a cranked or dirty tube amp. It still works on solid state amps but I recommend rather getting a proper practice amp instead.
Just a friendly warning, don’t expect this to work if your amp has a parallel effects loop as explain in my article.
Top Volume Pedals
Ernie Ball VP
You can watch the volume pedal technique by Philip below: