Guitar Effects Buzzwords Volume 1: Transparent

By Stefan Vos
In Nov 2, 2017

I’m not the first to say it: we are living in a ‘Golden Age’ of guitar effects. The boom in the guitar industry, perhaps coupled with the Internet and social media platforms like YouTube, has us spoiled for choice when it comes to effects pedals of all sizes, shapes, and functions. This plethora of effects covers a wide price range and we are seeing more and more small boutique companies entering into the market. One of the by products of this deluge is the accompanying slew of buzzwords and must-have trends. I’m going to tackle “transparent” so that you are in the know!

Terribly Transparent

‘Transparent’ – This term has probably been the most over-used and abused buzzword of the last while in effects pedal circles. Perhaps I can break it down for us. ‘Transparent’ is most commonly used to describe overdrive or boost pedals – the most notable example being the Klon Centaur – but can be applied to other effects as well. I feel like the term is most applicable when dealing with ‘feel’-based players, more on the blues side of things than metal, players who are into valve amplifiers, the minutiae of different guitars, pickups, etc. and who tend to use their amps as platforms for pedals. John Mayer might be a good example.

Why is it desirable? Well, the thinking, as I understand it, follows along these lines: a player buys a really great guitar, with fantastic pickups, and plugs into a great tube amplifier that responds to his or her guitar and playing style in a certain way. The player loves this combination, which, together with their technique and playing style, gives them ‘their’ sound. Then they want to be able add a little something should they need it, for a particular musical passage or song part. A touch more gain, or boost, or what have you. However, when they step on a particular effect pedal, they don’t want that core tone to be bulldozed over. They want ‘their’ sound, just with an effect on it, thus ‘transparent’. The pedal gives the desired effect, but without radically changing the core sound.

Are My Pedals Lying To Me?

Pedals of this nature, which have fairly neutral EQs, and tend to preserve the unaffected sound while simply adding the particular effect, tend to be analogue in nature. Digital effects seem to have more definite sounds that tend to ‘overwrite’ the sound coming into them. This is not necessarily a bad thing. There are many players who are quite happy for an effect pedal to have a very particular sound, the more distinct the better. Perhaps this is why the ‘transparent’ nature of a pedal is more sought after when it comes to overdrives and boosts, where the player doesn’t want, for example, the solo of the song to sound like a completely different guitar. They want to sound like themselves, just louder or grittier.

The popularity of this concept has seen a load of these types of pedals enter the market. If this type of pedal sounds like something you’d be interested in, I recommend checking out the following: Klon Centaur, J Rockett Audio Designs Archer Ikon, Bondi Effects Sick As, Tone Concepts The Distillery, DOD Looking Glass, Xotic RC Booster V2, Greer Lightspeed, JHS Morning Glory, Wampler Tumnus, Way Huge Saucy Box, Paul Cochrane Timmy, the list goes on…


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* Has played in the UK with the band Lightning Type on stages like the Camden Barfly, Dublin Castle and The London Astoria * Has recorded at Beethoven Street Studios, previously owned by Seal, through a mixing desk once used by David Bowie, with one of Brian May's amps * Has played with local rock superstars Cassette * Has been teaching for the last 10 years to all ages and levels * Listens to and enjoys playing ALL styles of music * Has spent years refining the POWER STANCE for maximum on-stage rocking * Has dedicated himself to the lifelong pursuit of ULTIMATE TONE: The Way of the TONE Master * Has never played "Guitar Hero"

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