FEEL vs TONE
In the time that I've been building pedals that use our Tone Plug circuitry, I've come to learn a few things that I probably would not have learned had I not come up with the Tone Plug concept.
One thing that became glaringly appearant was how drastically different a distortion pedal of just about any flavor became simply by changing just one or two components within. So I started there .. I came up with a pretty good sounding od/dirt circuit that generally just plain old worked great all on it's own. As few components as absolutely possible to retain as much of the guitar's natural sound as possible. The more crap your signal has to go through, the more it changes (or loses) the natural tone of the guitar. So I designed a basic dirt circuit that I would base my studies on, and go from there. Birthed from that effort was the Farndurk X circuit. The X has very few parts that your guitar's circuit is forced to travel through. Has a predictable and cooperative amplifier section that works well with the ear no matter the setting. Be it live, or studio the circuit is a 100% home run.
With a solid dirt circuit to begin with ... years and many many various pedals and custom designs go across my bench as well as through my amplifiers. Countless heeps of emails and phonecalls with excellent feedback from some really intuitive guitar players begin to allow me to compile a great deal of data. The Tone Plug concept has some side affects that I had not considered. I was getting some GREAT info from the field. Combine that with ???? years of live experience of my own, and the data was beginning to reveal some very interesting results.
Feel v Tone v Feel v Tone ... the circle can go on forever ...
One of the things that has become very obvious is that there are most definitely two points of view that one must take when using any of this gear. Or perhaps better said .. there are two aspects involved.
One aspect of what makes a pedal "good" is how it *sounds*, or it's basic tone or voice. This is about what actually comes out of the amplifier.
The other aspect that I'm speaking of here is what might be called Feel. This is only perceived by the player and not the listener. It has more to do with how the entire rig is responding to the player's input on the guitar, and ultimately affecting how good (or bad) the music is that comes out of the amp. I think ~feel~ affects things that are more about musicality rather than tone.
People aften ask me what the "differences" between various Tone Plugs are. It was always so hard for me to explain different ones, so I would end up narrowing it down to certain "families" of clippers and go from there as I outfitted a customer's pedal. Because the differences in actual sound between certain Tone Plugs is nearly invisible to the ear. However, they feel quite different when played.
For instance, any Tone Plugs that use (let's say) LEDs as clippers. Well, the differences between a pair of 3mm Yellow LEDs and a pair of Square Water Clear Blue 5mm LEDs to the listener .. or to the ear so to speak are nearly indistinguishable from one another. However, the two separate types of LEDs "break up" at different voltage levels .. consequently making the entire rig ~feel~ different to the player. That tiny difference in voltage tolerance (otherwise known as "Positive Inverse Voltage") makes a noticable and perceivable difference to the player. No doubt about it. The way the guitar responds to inputs from either hand are translated differently ... the whole rig just feels different. Whether ~different~ is better ... obviously that is up to you the player to figure out.
So sometimes the differences between various Tone Plugs isn't something that you're actually going to hear with your ears, but rather it will be something that you can feel as you play. I find that these subtle differences are most noticable when you use a medium to light breakup. Because when the distortion gets to be too thick there is so much compression and distortion going on that these subtle *feel* issues are somewhat numbed and much less pronounced.
In a practical sense, there are only about 4 (perhaps 5) separate/distinctive Tone Plug "tones" or "sounds". I call these "Families". However there are a great deal more "feels" within each family in the Tone Plug aresenal. Those 4 or 5 "sounds" go from the most compressed and choked-up, the the most open and dynamic and least choked-up. Yea .. that sounds about right ... I'd say about five max. Starting with Germanium types being the most choked/compressed sounding, on through the Silicon-type materials in the middle, to the light emitting diode (LED) setups on the most "wide open/most dynamic/least compressed" sounds. Nearly endless combinations of any of them can change the feel of the guitar and amp in increments of itsy-bitsy to enormous.
So with all of that having been said, I can safely say that I have a pretty good feel for what type of Tone Plug setups most folks will find useful ... (whether they be actual Tone Plugs or just the guts of one built on to a toggle switch ... like I do with the Model 9). More times than not I'll combine Tone Plug families to come up with what I think the customer is looking for. I may combine half of a #8 and half of a #2 (which comes out to a 3mm Yellow LED and a 4001 silicon diode, mounted conversely). Or perhaps I'll use a standard #2 however I'll put them in "like polarity". It has everything to do with feel, tonically that would sound no different than a #20, but it will break just a little bit earlier, making certain frequencies distort before other freqs do. This is the "feel" thing I keep yammering-on about.
To be announced.