A single-knob OD that ranges from pretty clean to pretty mean.
Cheap, easy, and offers a wide range of drive.
Limited by nature.
October Audio NVMBR Gain
Usually when I get the finger, it‘s nowhere near as much fun as October Audio’s NVMBR Gain. With just one dial and a graphic of a witch’s severed digit on top, the NVMBR Gain does a lot.
Snap it on with the knob all the way left, and it works as a 5 dB line boost—good to keep your amp or downstream effects sounding louder but clear. Turn it toward noon, and the output slowly increases. The company says the left side of the dial is a clean boost, but to my ears there’s subtle compression and a mid-forward attitude that TS fans should dig as much as I did. At 12 o’clock—where the pedal’s character really starts to change—I got hair and airy sparkle that, with my PRS SE Silver Sky’s single-coils, sounded like Hughie Thomasson’s opening riffs in the Outlaws classic “Green Grass and High Tides.”
The right side is this little monster’s other, nastier head. From noon to floored, it unleashes a soft-clipping-style overdrive that goes from perfect for gritty controlled blues to gnashing. If Syd’s “Interstellar Overdrive” tone is your thing, all the way right is where you’ll find it. But after, say, 3 o’clock the clipping accelerates exponentially, so abandon hope of much subtlety if you venture there. I could easily see this mere 3.63" x 1.5" x 1.88" stomp replacing another drive or two, to free up pedalboard space. And at $109, it offers a lot of functionality at a bargain tag.
Bryan Clark shares pearls about deploying multiband compressors as sonic superglue—a sequel to last month's pointers for dynamic EQs.
Welcome back, everyone. Last time, I shed some light on using a dynamic EQ rather than a multiband compressor. There are many similarities on the surface, but people use them interchangeably with brazen ignorance of what they're designed to do. If you ever have to replace a bolt (say, from your amp chassis or a rackmounted piece of gear), you measure the diameter and length of the bolt, head down to your local hardware store, buy a replacement, and drive home. Only, after several failed attempts to replace the bolt, you might discover that you didn't get the right thread count and it will not screw in under any circumstances. What I'm saying is: Attention to detail matters. Especially in audio, where the difference between a good mix and a great one lies in your choosing the right tool for the job. The Dojo is now open, so let's begin.
If you missed last month's Dojo, I encourage you to read it first. Let me briefly recap the difference: A dynamic EQ is a robust EQ with some limited built-in compressor capabilities, and a multiband compressor is a full-fledged compressor with the generic ability to EQ areas of the audio spectrum. If you keep that distinction in your mind, you make better mixing choices.
In audio, the difference between a good mix and a great one lies in your choosing the right tool for the job.
While a dynamic EQ shines on individual tracks for its ability to isolate problem frequencies and tame them, a multiband compressor is really at its best when used on summed groups of tracks (like sub mixes, an aux bus, and routed track folders) in your DAW or console.
Have a look a Fig. 1. These are the drum tracks I recorded at Blackbird, the Nashville studio where I work. I've got the three kick mics routed to BC KICK (five slots from left), then routed to +KIT (the light blue slot, far left). The rest of the 10 drum tracks are routed to BC KIT and then to +KIT to merge with the kick drum tracks mentioned before. I do this because I like to process the kick drum independent from the other parts of the drum kit. Low-end information (kick drums, bass, low-tuned guitars, bass synths, etc.) are full of energy and trigger compressors to overreact at the expense of high frequencies. Once all the drums are merged together in +KIT, I use the FabFilter MB multiband compressor.
Take a close look at Fig. 2. The three colored compression areas I've set allow me to control the fundamental of the kick drum (green), the rattle of the snare (purple), and the cymbal splashy-ness (blue). I can set the compression parameters of each of the areas independently and really take advantage of having three compressors working on large areas of the frequency spectrum with as much transparency as I want. I'm not squashing things, just gluing the drums together.
I've also added .7 dB boost to the purple area just to bring the snare out a bit more. This boost is acting just like an EQ, but I have the benefit of adding very detailed compression parameters that a dynamic EQ isn't really designed to deliver.
You can use these same principles for groups of rhythm guitar tracks (electric or acoustic) to help make room for your shredding solos and licks by summing multiple rhythm parts, carving out some space by gently reducing 1.6 kHz to 5.6 kHz (use your ears: this is a very general starting point), and then gently using a multiband compressor on the area that you choose. You may find that the vocals also start to sit better in the mix.
Finally, look at Fig. 3. I've put the iZotope Ozone multiband compressor on the main stereo mix (aka the 2 bus). Here, I'm focusing on the low-mids-to-high-mids range. This is gluing the bass guitars, electric and acoustic guitars, B3 organ, and a bit of the vocals gently together. Notice that the audio spectrum is divided into four parts with crossover points at 100 Hz, 2.8 kHz, and 10.6 kHz. (Marked by the capsule shapes on the spectrum visualizer.) I can also solo these areas and really listen to them and adjust the crossover points as needed to serve the mix and the song better.Now you know the differences between a dynamic EQ and a multiband compressor and have some techniques to try on your own mixes and recordings. Go for it! Until next time. Namaste.
Classic fuzz-pedal chaos meets modern tone shaping.
Authentic vintage Super-Fuzz tones with slightly more control. Fair price.
Hard to determine precise knob position.
Ease of Use:
If you’re a rabid Who fan, you probably wanted a Shin-Ei/Univox Super-Fuzz before you ever knew what a Super-Fuzz was. But even if Live at Leeds hadn’t made the sound of the Super-Fuzz an obsession for aspiring Townshends, it’s sheer wickedness and massive speaker-shredding octave fuzz would have driven circuit heads to re-create it. JHS has made a Super-Fuzz of their own called the Supreme, as part of their Legends of Fuzz series, and it manages to sound authentic and add a midrange boost switch that extends the device’s versatility in more straightforward fuzz settings.
While I don’t have a vintage Super-Fuzz for comparison, I A/B’d the JHS against a Wattson clone that is a proven dead-ringer for a friend’s blue-and-orange vintage model. In general, the JHS pulls off the high-wire feat of making the Supreme sound and feel a touch more controlled without sacrificing the buzz-saw aggression of the basic fuzz or the hectic, seat-of-the-pants thrill of the octave-up mode. Some of this extra civility is thanks to the Supreme’s more compressed voice. For anyone who’s ever used a vintage Super-Fuzz at volume and knows how wildly compressed it can sound, that might be a frightening concept. But the Supreme’s slight, intrinsic compression doesn’t squash dynamics. Instead it imparts a touch of harmonic equilibrium that keeps the pedal feeling responsive and sounding fantastically ferocious.
Test Gear: Guild X-175, DeArmond JetStar, ’68 Fender Bassman, Marshall 1987x