Digital Dirt Flirtations
Let me start by saying that I have never found a digital distortion device that sounds as good or better than analog when pumped through a pair of guitar speakers. While delays, modulations and pitch manipulators definitely compare (and sometimes surpass) the analog counterparts, dirt just isn’t quite there yet in live scenarios. Recording, however, is a whole different ball of wax and this is where digital dirt starts to germinate and sprout within a mix. I must admit, when comparing the presets of Eventide’s brand new CrushStation to the preamps of my Victory and Orange amps, I was a bit disappointed with the darkness and detachment the CrushStation seemed to yield. It wasn’t until I started digging deep with the tweaking session and assigning expression control to the various parameters that I realized the full scope of sonic capabilities within. In typical Eventide fashion, this algorithm offers full flexibility and its real savior for live guitar is the mix control.
My first digi-dirt venture was straight into the return port of my effects loop—the thought behind this was replacing my Victory V30’s preamp section altogether and hearing what the CrushStation could do as a traditional preamp into a tube power section. It responded well to pick attack and it was a good exercise in getting around the compression, octave and sag features, but it always seemed too dark and distant for my tastes. When I jacked straight into the preamp on the front end of my amp set clean, the tonality increased in fidelity and I realized that this is where the CrushStation was meant to fit. Then I started to blend my amp distortion with the octaves and starved voltage simulating sag control. I was then smiling and dialing like a teenage prankster in a call center.
Gain, Drain, Brain and Brawn
After rethinking my approach to the CrushStation and experimenting with routing and expression control assignments, I found that my favorite thing to do was go for a medium-gain setting on the H9, blended with a more sustained saturation from my real amp. For instance, I had never had the option or pleasure of blending the brutal, Melvins-style solid-state sludge of my Orange CR120 with expression-controlled parallel compression and voltage-starved distortion. From heel to toe, I was marinating each stabbing djent with shocks of voltage sag and squish, while maintaining the heft and definition from my natural amp tone. Visions of a dying robot sputtering solder vomit on my signal and melting it into concrete came to mind. Throwing in some lower octave for bad measure made for a hideously incestuous mixture of digital and analog dirt that rumbled with hellish digestive churn like a motorboat upon the River Styx.
Being the sacrilegious bugger that I am, I decided to whack the Eventide CrushStation straight into my Strymon El Capistan and see what these two opposing digital deities could do without the aid of analog anything. Straight into my new Studio One 3 DAW they went with no pre- or post-processing. I was able to get shockingly close to my live comfort tonezone of East Bay Ray-like British crunch and tape delay slapback within minutes. The handy noise gate shut out extraneous noisy computer artifacts, while the mids frequency control acted as a makeshift speaker simulation. This setup compared most favorably, even with the most modern amp circuit modeling plugins.
What We Like: Having virtually all aspects of guitar amp distortion at one’s finger, heel and toe tips is a very cool thing. I can’t think of any other dirt device that can manipulate these parameters simultaneously in real time. This alone is worth the price of admission.
Concerns: Those looking to replace a good tube or analog preamp in a live setting will be disappointed. The CrushStation can hold its own in a DAW, but live, the real thing is just that. However, with some clever blending and routing experimentation, there are some incredible new sounds exclusive to this algorithm.