Round 4: Parallel Punch
In this last round, I will try to demonstrate how you can use the CaliforniWAH (or other filter pedals) in an alternative way. I know that many bass players experiment with running filters in a parallel FX setup, meaning that you add an effected signal to your dry sound. In other words, you blend the dry and the FX signals rather than simply adding effect only. Traditionally, this has been done in recording studios for decades and typically used on a so-called AUX bus where you can send to an effect unit from any track and then there is a return channel that plays back only the ‘wet’ signals. Tyically, this would be reverb.
Later on many have experimented with using effect types that you would normally ‘insert’ on a track (such as compression, EQ, overdrive, etc.) in a parallel FX setup. And some have found filter pedals to be great at adding punch to their dry tone when blending it in.
But what is ‘punch’? To some it lives in the mid range while others think of the punch of a sound as something that happens in the very low end of the frequency spectrum. Maybe some simply mean ‘definition’ on the one side or ‘rumble’ on the other when they say ‘punch’. I don’t want to be the judge of that. But here is what I tried to do with the CaliforniWAH. I set it up to become a sub – almost sine wave – bass monster with the LOW POINT at an absolute 0. To make sure I could stay there, I lowered the SENSITIVITY to 0 as well. I then set RESONANCE @5 and EFFECT LEVEL @10.
This way I got a very subby tone with a massive boom factor, but no definition whatsoever. This is where the blending comes in…
First let’s hear a dry take of a simple 4-bar groove.
You might just want something in that ballpark. Or you might miss a bit of… well, punch in the low end. Typically, you would try applying EQ either on your amp or using a plug-in if you are recording. I used the standard EQ in Logic Pro X adding a slight bump in the lows. Sounds something like this…
Again, this might be just fine, but you could also try the ‘parallel route’. The downside is that you have to overdub yourself, unless you want to ‘reamp’ playing back a signal through the pedal that you record on a new track. Here is a version of only the CaliforniWAH acting more or less as a ‘subwoofer’, setting the LOW POINT and SENSITIVITY at 0, the RESONANCE at 5 and the EFFECT LEVEL at 10.
Finally, I blended the dry track and the subby track, which sounds like this…
It’s not necessarily better, but definitely different. I like how the crispiness of the dry sound remains while adding a low thump underneath. Also, one of the reasons why it’s a very different approach than ‘just’ using an EQ is that since you have to overdub yourself, no matter how precise you play, it will do something to the general feel of the track as well. Might be good or might be bad – that’s why we have multiple takes in most DAWs these days
I should mention that it was a bit tricky to do this exercise with the CaliforniWAH as even with the SENSITIVITY set to 0, the filter would open if I played with too much attack, so I really made sure to play very softly, which again also contributed to slightly changing the feel of the combined tracks.
It may be too much of a hassle to go through, creating a setup like this, but it sure is a lot of fun and it might just be the one tweak that would add some magic to your project one day.
Parallel Punch Live
I did try to use the CaliforniWAH in a live parallel setup, applying a Boss LS-2 Line Selector that is capable of switching between or blending several signals. It never really worked out, though, as it of course is impossible to play both with and without attack (or hard and soft) at the same time.
But then I added a Wampler EGO compressor in the parallel signal chain. At first I simply used it to lower the signal without applying compression and it worked out just fine. Sounded like this:
So having this all set up, it felt natural to try compressing the ‘punch’ signal. In fact, I squeezed it real hard and with a fast attack. It sounds something like this:
I think there is a clear difference in sound as well as feel when comparing the manual overdubbing and the LS-2 solution. The overdub sounds more like what it actually is – two individual signals on top of each other. Maybe that is in fact how the sound difference could be put into words: ‘parallel’ (as in side by side) and ‘vertical parallel’ (on top of each other) if that even makes sense?
Either way, it’s fun to experiment with these alternative setups and uses of pedals and it is absolutely possible to create some cool sounds along the way. I can’t say that I like one better then the other, but for convenience and potential live use, the LS-2 setup is the way to go.
Please go back to the main review page and scroll down to the VERSATILITY section to continue reading this review and get the final result and score of this pedal.