Other Amps

Stereo rig questions

1

Not sure if this is the best place for this question since it's not about any amps in particular, so if I should move it please let me know.

For whatever reason, I've been thinking more and more about trying a stereo setup. So I have some noob questions for those of you who do or have run a stereo setup:

  1. Is it worth the hassle?
  2. Is it better to use two identical (or similar amps) or is it a greater effect to use very dissimilar amps?
  3. Do you split the guitar's signal right away and then have two independent pedal boards and amps, or do you prefer to let a pedal split the signal between wet/dry?

The only pedals I have with stereo capabilities are a TC Electronics Hall of Fame, and an Arion SAD-1 delay.

I really love tremolo - I think that would be well suited to a stereo rig. Any stereo trem pedals out there you can recommend? If running trem in stereo is it more common to have a wet/dry split or do those pedals typically effect both signals and pan back & forth between the two amps?

Thanks!

2

A guitarist I used to play with used my Boss stereo chorus as the first pedal, split the signal left to a Tube Screamer only, then to his Fender Twin Reverb, and right thru his multi-function pedalboard to my Behringer modeling amp. Amps were placed either side of the drummer. Sounded ok, but I think it just fed his desire to be as loud as possible. Would probably sound good if done correctly.

3

Only you can decide if it's worth the hassle. It might be for a larger venue where the PA could enhance the stereo effect and less so for smaller ones. Recording is a whole other thing --- lots of possibilities there.

Even B.B. King, whose "Lucille" has stereo outputs, only ran it mono.

Wonder how many Ric owners actually use the "Ric-O-Sound" stereo?

The panned tremolo is very cool --- that was the feature of the Rhodes Suitcase piano, and I've heard it used on guitars too. Or the Uni-Vibe, where the stereo effect simulates the spatial deliciousness of a Leslie speaker.

4

It is pretty cool to play with, I have used a Boss Stereo Chorus with 2 outputs and the Boss RE-20. With different amps it can be amazing. The sound differences and how they interact with each other can be quite satisfying. Back in the day, Trower used a fender for cleans and a marshall for drive. Just try it and see what you think!

5

1, It's worth the hassle if YOU like it.

  1. See above. I used two different amps---an AC15 and a Deluxe Reverb.

  2. I used a mono guitar into an RE-20 reverb that produces stereo outputs. The RT-20 Leslie simulator also does a Univibe type effect and is also a stereo device.

I find that many so called "stereo" rigs are more bi-amp setups---highs to one amp, and lows to the other. I'd opine that one pickup to each amp would be more in the vein of true stereo. For most stage uses, I'd say that a stereo rig isn't all that useful, unless you have a good stereo PA. In recording, it'd be much more noticeable and useable.

6

I've been playing with two amplifiers for about 30 years. I use a Boss DD-2 Stereo Delay pedal, to send the direct sound to my main amp, and the delay sound to the secondary amp. I have always used two different types of amplifiers, simply because that's what I've had on hand. It's always worked out well for me, in fact it sounds amazingly cool. Stereo delay (or chorus) can add a very spacious sound to your act. It's fun to play around with, IIRC a very short delay, with multiple repeats, can actually sound like a chorus.

7

You'll be sorry you got me started.

I'm as stereo as possible, whenever possible. It's a matter of both conviction and opportunity: music sounds so much better to me in full surrounding stereo, and given the pace and uncertainties of age-related physical deterioration, I'm going to take every chance I can to enjoy it.

And yeah, I know, Brian Wilson had hearing in only one ear and mixed beautifully, and there's nothing like glorious mono, and who's arguing. I still have hearing in both ears, and the tech is there, and off I go.


My second guitar, circa 1969, was stereo - similar to Ric-o-Sound, each pickup with its own output. I tried it in stereo when I had access to two amps (which was not often), but the effect was underwhelming and not worth the effort. IF I had had separate effects chains on the two outputs, it would have been very different. But, 1969. I had the one fuzz pedal. I did experiment with running the fuzz in one amp and clean through the other, and that worked very nicely to deliver a wide, spacious two(ish) guitar sound.

I usually ran each output of the guitar to separate inputs of the same amp (a Silvertone Twin Twelve, which, like most two-input amps of the day, had truly separate channels). That way I could eq each pickup a little differently - AND I could put the fuzz just on one pickup and still have that clean blend as desired. (The guitar had a balance pot which progressively mixed the pickups.) Still, this wasn't so much a stereo effect as just a more textured mono output. In any case, the ability to blend distortion and clean has thus never seemed unusual to me.

Through most of my weekend-band gigging years, I didn't stereo. There were few (affordable) stereo effects at the time, and running two separate effect chains to two separate amps wasn't a common thing - nor would it have been worth carrying the extra amp to widen my guitar sound in a 5-piece band. I was also playing keyboards (with stereo outs to the mains when possible), so it's not like there wasn't enough going on.

But I started using a stereo rig live maybe 10-15 years ago, with my originals band - which fluctuated from a duo to a 5-piece, but was usually a guitar-bass-drums trio. In that context, stereo was a positive benefit not only for the wider, more textured guitar soundstage it enables, but just to fill out the sound - and to enable (or require) the bassist to hear me better, without my just being louder. We found it very useful for small gigs where nothing was mic'ed and monitored - and the audience actually got more benefit of the stereo ambiance than I did, because I was located at my side of the stage and they could hear both amps as God intended. It may seem counter-intuitive, but I was able to provide more coverage - at lower volume - than with a single amp. It didn't really make the band overall any louder, just fuller.

With this rig, I used both identical and different amps. Each approach has its virtues. Using two very dissimilar amps (like a Princeton on one side and a Marshall stack on the other) wouldn't be useful for my approach to stereo, which is more about a lush and enveloping soundfield than about stark differences between tones. (Though certainly blending very different tones can be cool as all git-out; you'd just likely want those amps physically closer together.) So when I used dissimilar amps, they weren't radically different. Slightly different eq and even gain settings can add dimension without crossing the line to "sounds like two different guitars." For what it's worth, my usual two-the-same setup is a pair of Peavey Classic 30s (one in black, one in tweed, just because). But sometimes I'd substitute a Delta Blues (for the 15) or Tech21 Trademark 60 (because it was lighter to tote). It's also cool to mix, say, a Fender on one side with a Vox(ish) amp on the other, just to blend those inherently different textures.

At home, I have amps stacked in tiers on shelves, with nicely compatible pairs in the outside positions at each level, just because I'm both obsessive and stereo-besotted. Not that it matters much, because 95% of my home playing is now through headphones (with perfect stereo).

As to where to split the signal...that will ultimately depend on what you're after. In the nature of these things, most stereo pedals are in the time domain - delay, reverb, modulation. (Other than true pitch vibrato and true tremolo, modulation effects like phasing, flanger, chorus, and their derivatives are fundamentally varieties of very short delay times combined with LFOs.) It's a rare gain, overdrive, distortion, compression, or filter device (like wah) which is either stereo - or wants to be at the END of an effects chain - whereas all the time-domain stuff usually does best at the end of a chain.

So it's simplest, and makes a lot of practical sense, to split the signal somewhere on the board, after all the stuff that wants to come early (and which is almost always mono), at the first stereo pedal in your chain. (A corollary of that is that once you go stereo in the chain, the rest needs to remain stereo.) In a "reasonable" rig (relatively speaking), you'd have your compression, eq, dirt, distortion, drive, fuzz, filters, wah, volume pedal wired as usual in mono (in whatever order you think best), then feed the first stereo pedal in the chain mono, come out stereo, and from there on to the rest of your stereo toys and ultimately to the amps.

The usual practice is to put stereo modulation pedals first, then delays, then reverbs last. (Though you can play with this.) So in your case, first the Arion, then the Hall of Fame. That way, all your previous (mono) pedals go to both sides, but appropriately stereated. Stereized. Stereoficated.

In terms of obvious ear-tickling bang for your stereo buck, delay is probably the most obvious - assuming the device either ping-pongs the repeats from side to side (which I like) or leaves one side dry and feeds the repeats to the other side (which I don't like as well). Depending on other capabilities of the device, a delay can have a bunch of other ear-tickling stereo tricks up its little (usually digital) sleeve - like stereo-modulated repeats, filtered repeats, flanged or phased or fuzzed or pitch-shifted repeats, and more. Good clean entertainment.

Modulation can also be glorious in stereo: sometimes very obvious, but frequently of a more subtle nature that becomes more apparent when it goes missing after you switch it off. Some very short time offsets and subtle chorus can widen and/or thicken your tone without being obvious. The guitar just sounds more spacious, more "produced." Some such effects can become always-on conditions of your tone. (The Strymon Deco is a prime example of this.) Depending on your taste, stereo chorus - and there's a wide variety of approaches - can be attractive and enriching.

Tremolo, yep, would seem an obvious stereo candidate - but when you think about it, the essence of tremolo is a modulation in VOLUME - and when one side is throbbing down while the other is throbbing up, there's really no overall change in volume. - just "local" changes in front of each amp.) Seated in the center of the stereo image, stereo trem is experienced more as "auto-pan" - with the signal flowing back and forth across the soundstage. Some devices go ahead and call it auto-pan, and some provide auto-pan along with true tremolo. With that in mind, there's a lot to play with in stereo tremolo options - different wave shapes, offset waves, etc.

In specific response to your last question, the big purple Dunlop Stereo Trem is a classic of the type, versatile in terms of tremolo shape, and very simple in operation. There are quite a few stereo trems in the realm of single-purpose stompers, and I've seen many of them all trotted out as someone's favorite - most of those would have to be physically smaller than the Dunlop. But I don't find any stand-alone stereo trem a good value by comparison with multi-modulators which provide all the stereo tremulation you could want - along with lots of other stuff. (Which I'm fixin' to talk about.)

The MOST glorious stereo modulation comes with stereo vibrato and Leslie speaker simulations. (The Uni-Vibe was actually intended to be a Leslie simulator; it's not quite, but it did become its own very cool thing which is richest and most enveloping in stereo.) There's just a lot going on with a Leslie - and thus in Leslie-simulating effects - with bass and treble frequencies being thrown around the room and in and out of phase in complex ways, often separate from each other. It's very hard to capture digitally, but several devices sound as good as a recorded Leslie, which is probably all we can ask. (There's no substitute for physically standing in the presence of a Leslie cab.)

Possibly the most subtle stereo effect - but ultimately the most rewarding - is reverb. I don't know that the in-box (or in-pedal) digitals can ever be fully appreciated in the usual live-band context, but even there a good stereo 'verb still brings a dimension and depth that mono lacks (even if you don't know where it's coming from). But in the controlled environment of your practice space, studio, headphones, or recording...stereo reverb is a plush, lush, luscious and continuous rush to the synapses. And there's an endless variety of types of reverb (simulating various real spaces as well as creating artificial spatial environments) - plus all the modulations and combinations effects designers have been able to think of.

All three of the most "effective" stereo effects - modulation, delay, reverb - can be overused - or at least used in tone-deaf, generic, stereotypical, "inappropriate" ways. The term "ambient" seems to be used by two groups of people: those who hate artificial sonic environments and like to lump anything that can be used for such in a corner as beneath their interest and an assault on their musical canon - and those who play the pedals more than the music, creating a subgenre which is all about its atmosphere and texture, and not much about its musical content. Aimless noodling theoretically turned interesting by post processing.

But there's a middle ground, where stereo effects are used to enhance musical content - both to try to replicate (or at least suggest) the recorded sound of the last 60 years of popular music, and to find new sonic atmospheres.

In any case, a fully enabled stereo rig ought, I think, to include as many modulation effects as the player has interest in, a multi-featured delay, and a full-featured stereo reverb. Several companies make "big box" multi-effects that try to cover all the bases in each of those categories, and more tackle at least reverb and delay. The idea with these is that you spend a bit more on a single pedal which covers all the types of delay, all the types of reverb, all the modulations in one - rather than buying, say, a stereo trem, a stereo chorus, a vibe, a digital delay, an analog delay, a tape delay, etc.

Arguably the two big-box triple-plays are the Strymon "stryfecta" of Mobius (modulation), Timeline (delay) and Big Sky (reverb); and the Boss MD-500 (mod), DD-500 (delay), and RV-500 (reverb). One should also mention Eventide's triple-play: Mod Factor, Time Factor, and Space (reverb). It's worth mentioning that the Boss RV-500, the least expensive of these, is actually a very full-featured reverb AND a delay; a pretty capable stereo delay with modulation can be enabled simultaneously with any of the reverbs.

With any combination of those in play, you'd have a lifetime of stereo delay delights at hand.

If you have more than one lifetime to spend in sonic splendor (and that's what I'm counting on), Source Audio has their Vertigo "Trem" (which does so much more), Nemesis delay and Ventris reverb; Empress has their Echosystem delay and Reverb reverb (yeah, I know). For quirkier, lusher, more idiosyncratic tastes - and without trying to cover all the bases, Meris has the Polymoon delay and Mercury 7 reverb.

Another masterful stereo time-domain device is Eventide's expansive H9, which is packed with all the effects that come in all three of their big-boxers (and more) - but it's a one-effect-at-a-time proposition, and possibly not the most cost-effective way to spend 600.00 on getting a bunch of stereo. (Though nothing sounds better...and less expensive versions of the same pedal can be chained to it to cover more simultaneous bases.)

Lesser-known GFI, from Indonesia, has their Specular Tempus, which is a very capable, very compact combination of stereo delays and reverbs. Lush and gorgeous, though not as wide ranging as the aforementioned big-boxers.

At the lower end of the price scale, the Electro Harmonix Canyons (not the no-final-ess Canyon) is an astonishing stereo delay with a crazy and deep palette for not much money. Sounds great. EHX's current stereo reverb (the Cathedral) is nice, but old in features; I'm guessing there will be a stereo version of their new Oceans 11 mono reverb which will surely be killer. EHX's approach to an all-singing/all-dancing stereo modulator, Mod Rex, isn't really all-singing and all-dancing. It doesn't have the range of modulation effects or depth of programming of the Strymon Mobius or Boss MD-500 - but it has enough, and they're deployed in a very cool way with a common tap-tempo for all, and easy time-division controls over each of the four effects to keep them in sync, but at subdivisions of the master tempo. Crazy good for the money, unique in the market, and more fun than you should be allowed to have with a pedal.

Note that though it may look like it, I'm not trying to provide an exhaustive list of all the cool stereo effects - that's impossible - just listing those with which I have personal experience, which provide an impressive range of interesting and useful effects in their categories, and which therefore (despite higher initial cost in some cases) provide good value for the money. There's a host of one-trick-ponies (or 2-3-4-5-6-trickers) from a multitude of builders - and some of those are well worth the money (if you think they are), but they're hard to justify mathematically on a cost-per-trick basis to anyone who isn't utterly besotted by the effect in question.

My product shopping list is also heavy on designs from the last 5-7 years - not because those are readily available on the market (though they are), but because processing power and builder creativity have reached an unprecedented level with the latest generation of pedals. The Boss DD-20, for example, was a great pedal for many years, sounds great - and its crazy 23-second max delay time is still champ - but depth and breadth have been far exceeded by newer tech. The same holds true across all stereo effect categories.


OK, so. Your Hall of Fame is a very competent stereo delay. I didn't find it very entertaining, wide or deep in range of possibility; for me, it wasn't a magic box full of surprise and delight. It's rather one to cover all the usual reverb types - sufficient to initial stereo experiments. The Arion, though...that's a kinda-nice 80s-flashback thing that was probably better than it should have been at the time, but has long since been surpassed in sound quality, versatility, variety, etc. It's enough to give you the flavor of stereo reverb, but not enough to illustrate to you why grown men would devote significant parts of their lives (and money) to stereo sound adventures. For acres of delay goodness in one box, it's hard to beat the EHX Canyons - though the controls are smallish and can be fiddly. The best value in the next tier - and arguably as good as any of the big boxers - is the Source Audio Nemesis, which is compact, really easy to use, and sounds fabulous.

That still leaves you short of modulation. The EHX Mod Rex is worth a look and listen - but for a ton of fun in an ounce of package, the Source Audio Vertigo is a good place to go. Used, around 100.00. It's billed as a tremolo, and is set up for three varieties of tremolo which come pre-loaded ("Normal," Harmonic, and Bias, the usual - except in stereo. But using SA's Neuro app or application, you have access to a nice library of other excellent modulation effects from Source Audio which can be loaded into it (flange, chorus, etc). Sound quality is superb. Provided you're willing to connect a pedal to your computer or device, it's a good way to explore a wide range of modulation effects.


So what about splitting the signal up front, with separate chains all the way through? Unless you want very different effects on each side - like a totally different sound from each amp - without total MIDI control it's not logistically practical to use two separate chains all the way through. Particularly for the usually-stereo back-end effects (mod, delay, verb), you don't want to be stomping and tweaking a different pedal for each amp. It can be cool to keep one side clean (ie, no dirt), or to mix different dirts on each side, so it might be worth splitting directly after the guitar (or compression and eq) and routing through two chains up to your first stereo modulation device, but not all the way to the amps.

And I guess it's worth mentioning that Source Audio's LA Lady stereo dirt/distortion/fuzz box lets you have a different effect on each side - and that EHX makes a stereo compressor, the Platform. I have these and use them for a my full-stereo guitars, but the Platform is not a great compressor, and I find it more of a pain to tweak a single pedal in the computer for the stereo dirt than to have separate dirt pedals in the chain.

Unless you know you want different dynamics/filter/dirt effects on each side of your stereo image, it's probably sufficient to go stereo at the first stereo pedal in your chain (probably modulation, if you get one).

I realize I've been talking only about a wet-wet system, where both sides get the effects. I see the virtue in a wet-dry system, with both amps getting the mono pedals (dynamics, gain, dirt, filter) but only one getting the mod/delay/reverb...or even the first amp ONLY getting the front end, and the other the stereo ear candy. But that doesn't sound stereo to me in a way I appreciate, so I have little interest in it.

There's also the wet-dry-wet system, wherein one amp stays "clean" of the stereo effects (though it gets dynamics, gain, dirt, filter) and the other two get the stereo image from the effects. That would be fine with me, but it's for well-resourced self-indulgent touring pros who want (or have agreed) to give front-of-house control over the mix of the dry guitar and the effected guitar. I'm self-indulgent, but I'm neither well-resourced or touring, so I don't have to contend with that.

My own guitar home entertainment system has spiraled out of control; I split the signal after the guitar and go to three chains (two of which are irrelevant to this discussion); the main guitar chain goes through three boards full of pedals, then turns stereo in the middle of the fourth board before going off to...OK, two more boards (which are interconnected in convoluted and devious ways I have to write down to remember)...and finally off to amps and/or modeler/profiler/recording interface. Not all pedals are in the chain at all times, so there's various switching and patching stuff along the way. By today's count, I have 32 stereo-capable pedals.

There's some duplication of type in there, and needless to say, it's not a gig-worthy complex.

I do think I've either reached the pedal proliferation event horizon where it's all too extensive and complex to be practical, or I’ve already fallen into the black hole of hopeless sonic navel-gazing.

I promise to sell some pedals when I decide which "don't give me joy."


OK BUT. Clearly I'm a bad example. A stereo rig doesn't have to be nearly as complex as I've likely made it sound in trying to be complete in explanation. You should definitely try stereo - and I won't think you've given it a fair shot until you have more extensive stereo delay options and some stereo modulation. And maybe a more diverse and entertaining reverb.

The easiest way to go stereo? Oh, maybe a technologically mature multi-effect system. Zoom makes cheap ones, but I've never used a Zoom anything, so I can't say yea or nay. Boss and Line6 both have boxes with multiple effects which can be combined in series, and include stereo outputs, for under 400.00 new. They're kind of a one-box solution.

I'm a fan of the Boss MS-3: plug into one side, connect six of its internal effects in any order, along with three of your own in an external loop if you can't do without them, and get stereo everything out the other end, ready to plug into amp, mixer, or interface. Again, a one-box solution. The compressors are competent, the gain/dirt/distortion are all familiar Boss versions of the various types, and the back-end stereo effects are more than competent. This one 400.00 box is more than any of us would have dared dream possible 10-20 years ago.

The ultimate all-in-ones, at the other end of the price spectrum, are probably the Line6 Helix, Kemper Profiling Amp, Axe-FX, and Headrush - all 1,000.00 to 2,000.00 or more, but with most of the effects of every type you could ever want built in, along with extensive amp and cabinet modeling, as well as flexible output routing (to amps, F-O-H, headphones, whatever), and direct recording interfaces. They sound expensive at first, but it's easy to rack up waaay more than the sticker price for one of these in separate pedals, power, cables, pedalboards, etc. And they all have the benefit of complete programmability: find a combination of virtual devices, fine-tuned for a perfect tone for a particular application, and write it into a patch for quick recall from the pedalboard. That can seem tedious and complicated - but try tap-dancing and knob-turning between sections of a song as an alternative.

For my taste the really sweet spot in all-in-one stereo-gitter-dones are the Line6 HX Stomp (all of the power and much of the signal routing of the Helix in a much smaller 600.00 box) and the as-yet unreleased Hotone Ampero at the 400.00 price point. The Ampero doesn't provide as many slots in its effect chain as the HX Stomp, but it includes very impressive amp modeling and over 200 effects of all types. Same thing, your guitar cable in, and stereo out.

The thing about all these all-in-ones, though (except for the HX Stomp) is that they don't support or facilitate really adventurous extreme effects and routing. They do a great job of providing all the basic types in every effect group, enabling you to get an awfully good facsimile of pretty much any recorded tone - and certainly close enough for any kind of live gigging. They just aren't experimental rigs.

But all of them solve the purely electrical problems which invariably plague stereo amp rig setups...

Because however you route chains of separate pedals, once you plug a single guitar into two amps, you're almost certain to have either ground issues or phase issues, and maybe both. You'll know the ground issue right away - or your next of kin will - as you'll be electrocuted and fried like a chimichanga on the spot.

OK, no no, I'm kidding! THAT would be an extreme ground issue. It's very unlikely. I've been stereoting for 50 years and haven't been chimichangifried even once. (But use 3-prongs to good grounded circuits, all the usual caveats.)

You'll know a ground issue because as soon as you plug into the second amp, you'll get horrendous hum from both. Not enough to completely obliterate your guitar's sound - but it will be unbearable to play that way. You can switch polarities on the amps (if they have switches), or (don't tell anyone I said so) lift the ground at the wall on one of the amps - just for testing, to see if it helps. But you'll have to solve the issue before you have any fun (and it's possible the issue will be slightly different in each venue you visit).

A phase issue is more subtle - much of the low end disappears from the signal, and the midrange sounds hollow and phasey. That can only be resolved by switching the phase of one of the amp's input signals, and that's best done with a box containing a switch to do just that.

It seems like an extraneous and unnecessary expense, but ultimately it works best to buy yet another pedal/box to solve both issues. I use the Radial Bigshot ABY - but many a-b-y boxes will have ground lift and phase reverse built in. One of the king macdaddies in this domain is the Empress Stereo Buffer+, which solves problems most of us haven't even dreamed of yet.

But my stereo rig didn't get completely viable as a dependable, giggable rig till I got the Radial. Then ground-noise and phasing problems just went away poof like that.


So...thanks for asking. Now go forth and multiply. Or at least in stereo.

8

Only you can decide if it's worth the hassle.

Okay, you are all right - only I can judge whether it's worth the hassle to me. So let's modify the first question as I guess what I'm actually wondering is if the effect is subtle (e.g. a touch more space or motion compared to mono - like a really great modulation pedal) or really dramatic (e.g. it's a sensation that cannot be mimicked by a mono setup and sounds like nothing I've heard before).

So for those of you who have run stereo rigs, would you ever (willingly) go back to mono? Or does it always seem lacking in comparison if you go back to mono?

You'll be sorry you got me started.

Not a chance! I love your epic posts. This one looks like it may be a two-beerer to get through it all.

9

This one looks like it may be a two-beerer to get through it all.

By the time you see the dregs at the bottom of the second bottle, the stereo effect will be greatly enhanced. I'll launch into a seasick stereo vibrato at that point and you can see how dramatic it is.


While I'm happy to play in mono when that's appropriate ... well, I'm happy to play under any conditions. One of the joys of not playing professionally is that no playing opportunity seems routine or perfunctory.

But if I have the choice (as I always do, at home), I'll opt for stereo about 90% of the time. Even if I'm not using overt stereo, just a little spread of soundstage from a stereo reverb room algorithm makes a huge difference in playing satisfaction.

The long section of my post breaking down how stereo appears to the ear across the three families of stereo effects (mod, delay, verb) was partially intended to address the subtle-vs-dramatic point. It can be either, and sometimes both at the same time. Sometimes what you thought was the subtlest effect makes a dramatic difference when you click it off. Suddenly a soundstage that had been wide and enveloping - though not obtrusively apparent - sucks down to a single one-dimensional point source in the middle of the image. Of course the ear quickly adapts to that and begins to hear the subtlety and texture on offer there. So part of the package is simply having both "spreads" at hand to use as tools for sonic sculpting.

But some effects can be very dramatic indeed, and clearly not even kinda reproducible in pure mono. You will hear stuff you've never heard before; the more full-featured of the pedals I mentioned offer more stuff you're unlikely to have heard - and combining them and twisting some knobs are almost guaranteed to produce happy accidents of aural novelty that are better than any pharmaceutical.

Best of all, a new sonic field often inspires music that was clearly in you all the time, but which wouldn't have come out had it not sensed an atmosphere it could breathe. The sound itself will invite/demand playing techniques and approaches that would have no meaning - or a much different meaning - in any other sonic context. For me it's a fabulous way to surprise myself.

That's all on the experimental end...I guess it's an open question how much a sound can surprise you if it's one you recognize from other players' recorded work, but which you'd never heard coming out of your gear before. But there's value in that too.

I recall occasions in which I first heard particular stereo effects on records, and those sounds were dramatic and impactful, and became part of the hooks of the recordings. It's cool not only to be able to reproduce those, but to find equally arresting effects on your own.

A caveat, though: I'm not sure how well lushly stereo soundfields translate in live environments. In a small club setting, with the audience hearing the onstage amps (or if they're lightly reinforced in a STEREO PA), yeah probably maybe. Especially if the audience is quiet/reasonably attentive because present in the first place to really hear music - or, as in my case, the crowd is so sparse that it's nice and quiet anyway. In those cases, I think an audience can hear the stereo benefit.

At a noisy club/party gig...pfft, don't bother. Just crank it up and blow. And, unfortunately, even major concerts become noisy party gigs, where the music is loud so the crowd is louder and then the music is even louderer.

Unless it's Pink Floyd, who toured during their last outings with enough gear to beat any stadium full of noise-makers into submission. They'd been into surround-sound from before there was such a thing, improvising a joystick-controller quad panning control in the late 60s. By the Momentary Lapse of Reason tour, they were doing at least quad (and I think maybe 6-point) multi-o around stadiums. But, clearly, not everyone could have a sweet seat where they got the whole balanced effect that no doubt the FOH mixer was hearing at his location. Still...it was multiphonically both dramatic and enveloping.

But even a good concert sound system, volume aside, doesn't have the same lush clarity of your amps in a room, or studio monitors (or any home version thereof), or of headphones. I suspect I'm the only person who apprehends and enjoys the full benefits of my stereo adventures - and that's OK with me. Ultimately I play to please myself. Aside from musical content, it's both therapy and meditation.

I could be wrong, but I think anyone's stereo rig is most entertaining to that person.


Lest I’ve made a stereo rig sound complicated and entirely self-indulgent, I should mention that it really doesn’t have to be that much hassle. Putting a couple-three pedals on your board just requires one extra patch cable each, and you need one more cable to run to the second amp. Sort out the ground/phase gremlin (I stack the little Radial box on the second amp) and you’re done.

At a gig, the “hassle” is a matter of the second amp, one more cable to run, and setting the amp’s level. Not a big deal.

10

WIth Gretsch stereo pickups, the top 3 strings come out of one channel, and the bottom 3 strings come out of the other. There's no way to enhance that with the PA. They were invented so that people like Chet could process the bass strings separately from the melody strings. I have a stereo Silver Jet and a stereo amp. It's interesting, but has no practical application other than being able to put a delay pedal on the bass strings only.

11

WIth Gretsch stereo pickups, the top 3 strings come out of one channel, and the bottom 3 strings come out of the other. There's no way to enhance that with the PA. They were invented so that people like Chet could process the bass strings separately from the melody strings. I have a stereo Silver Jet and a stereo amp. It's interesting, but has no practical application other than being able to put a delay pedal on the bass strings only.

12

WIth Gretsch stereo pickups, the top 3 strings come out of one channel, and the bottom 3 strings come out of the other. There's no way to enhance that with the PA. They were invented so that people like Chet could process the bass strings separately from the melody strings. I have a stereo Silver Jet and a stereo amp. It's interesting, but has no practical application other than being able to put a delay pedal on the bass strings only.

– Billy Zoom

Neil's made pretty good use of it over the decades.

13

From my perspective, tons of things can be done with the stereo pickups - more than just slapbacking the bass strings - but it's kinda a whole nother topic. Almost no one has a guitar with pickups thus split, so it's a pretty esoteric discussion.

I built a separate pedalboard just for my stereo Gent, with the EHX Platform stereo comp and the Source Audio stereo dirter in the front end, then a pair of Boss MS-3 multis, one for each pickup. That provides a whole suite of all the usual effects that can be deployed differentially. And since both MS3s have stereo outputs, I can actually run quad. Hmm!

But the split-stereo pickup scenario is much more tedious than the kind of stereo we've been talking about so far. The amps really have to be pretty identical, and adjusting tone and volume on both is critical if you want to sound like one guitar and not two 3-string half-guitars playing something semi-related. I also have a stereo-spread potentiometer in a small pedal that lets me narrow or widen the stereo field. It's also crucial to finding the sweet spot where it's a cool effect and not a disjointed disappointment.

15

Here is my simple yet effective stereo rig signal chain:

Guitar -> Wah -> Tuner -> OD -> Distortion -> Boost ->

Phaser (stereo)-> Delay (stereo) -> Reverb (stereo) ->

2 amps (Princeton Rev & Pro Jr)

I LOVE running stereo, but don't always have the space at gigs and/or PA isn't in stereo.

16

I found a way to make the Gretsch-like stereo pickup effect work, using a hexaphonic pickup (Roland GK-3) and a Boss GP-10, sending the bass strings out to one channel (by panning them all the way left) and the treble 3 out to the other (by panning them hard right) and it worked out a lot like the CGP I used to have, but I can switch into or out of it by changing patches. Once I figured it out and marveled at my own ingenuity, added delay to one channel and did a demo video, I don't think I've used that patch since, except to occasionally test it to see if it still works.

Now that I have two Quilter InterBlocks that I don't use much, I may stereotype myself again and do some 'sperimentation when I get some spare time (don't hold your breath).

17

You’ve had some of the best answers ever. I sometimes run a stereo rig at home with my Suoer Reverb and Vibroclone. What a monster pair! Too impractical to take out of the house though.

Others have identified the main use cases: 1) one side clean the other dirty. 2) awesome stereo modulation and time effects. 3) the weird stereo Gretsch pickups.

One pedal I have that’s pretty cool is my Ernie Ball Volume Pedal which can be used as a stereo pan. If you rock it quickly it becomes a manually controlled univibe so you can add that warbling phase effect at will. The first time I heard the sweep between amps I was blown away!


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