How to Get the Most From Your Distortion

What’s the Difference Between Diamondhead and Palladium?! 

 

Tuned for a wide range of distortion, rock players of all shades find the Diamondhead perfectly suited for their preferences. But we often hear, “Doesn’t Seymour Duncan already have the Palladium?”  

 

Great question. 

 

We’d like to give a bit more insight into these two multi-gain stage distortion designs. We’ll talk about what sets them apart from other distortion pedals, what sets them apart from each other, and what makes them some of the best all-analog distortion pedals on the market. 

 

First, let’s look at the history and distinct characteristics of distortion pedals throughout the years. 

 

History 

 

The first distortion pedals hit the scene in the 1970s. While fuzz had already staked its claim as the first dirt pedals, they were generally too unfocused and loose in the low end to keep up with the faster and punchier sounds rock and metal guitarists were embracing.  

 

Those players were drawn more to the percussive and searing sounds their Marshalls delivered when driven to the max. But, as anyone who has ever pushed a tube amp to the max knows, their punishing volumes quickly become an issue. So, the rush was on to find a different way of getting the same tone at lower volumes. 

 

A few of the first and still the most revered distortion pedals to hit the market were the Boss DS-1, the MXR Distortion+, and the Pro Co RAT. Each delivered harmonically rich gain with a cutting sound that pushed players’ amps to the brink without losing their definition. In fact, they continue to be some of the biggest sellers and have become the platforms for countless clones.  

 

Though all three of these classics share the aggressive tone of a hard-clipped circuitmore ‘organic-sounding’ overdrives often use soft-clippingthey get their unique voices in two different ways. 

 

Symmetrical clipping 

Symmetrical clipping is when the top and bottom of the waveform are clipped exactly alike. This style of clipping can deliver a smoother sound with less cutting top end. That’s why the Pro Co Rat is such a favorite for its fluid tone and warmth while still being able to get nasty. 

 

Asymmetrical clipping 

Asymmetrical clipping isyou guessed itwhen the waveform is clipped differently on the top and the bottom of the wave. With this style of distortion, you’ll notice a more aggressive high end and a searing character. It’s what gives the Boss DS-1 and MXR Distortion+ their ability to cut through any mix while dishing out plenty of gain. 

Gain Staging 

 

No matter which flavors you prefer, distortion pedals offer a world of tonal options. Whether you need to nail a ‘70s style distortion in your cover band, want to add a fire-breathing tone to your clean-sounding amplifier, or are part of the doom/stoner/grunge movement that lives for crushing levels of old-school grit, a great distortion pedal is the way to go.  

 

But if you simply throw a cranked distortion in front of your gain-up amp stack, you may be greeted with an uncontrolled howl that’s far from the tonal nirvana you expected. That’s why gain staging is such an essential part of dialing in your gear. Think of it this way; if you are running the typical pedal-into-amp setup, you’re actually dealing with three main gain stages that all have to work in concert.  

 

  1. The pedal is the first stage and determines how loud your signal is when it hits the amp.  
  1. The amplifier’s preamp is the second stageAlready overdriving from the pummeling signal of your pedal, the preamp will distort even more than it would on its own.  
  1. Your signal then hits the power amplifier (or gain stage number three). And, depending on how hard you crank your amp, it can also distort. 

 

Push all three to their limits, and each will compress, overdrive, and turn your tone into an undefined mess. But give the right stages the room to breathe while carving your sound with others, and you begin to understand the tonal power of gain staging.  

 

Today, placing distortion before your preamp is no longer the only accepted method. Many modern players have discovered bypassing their amplifiers’ preamp sections altogether and running their distortion pedals directly into their amps’ effects return or an independent power amplifier. Now their favorite dirt boxes become the preamp, delivering their sonic signature without anything in the way. 

 

Not only are the Palladium and Diamondhead excellent options for this type of routing, but we designed them for it. 

 

Palladium Gain Stage and Diamondhead Distortion + Boost 

 

Seymour Duncan built the Palladium and the Diamondhead pedals around the concept of gain staging and the extensive tonal options it offers. Not only do they deliver delicious, analog distortion, but you get complete control of the character of that distortion, from boosts to output to EQ and everything in between.  

 

Diamondhead Distortion + Boost: 

The Diamondhead is our tribute to the glory days of cranked, boosted British-voiced stacks. Throw a little green overdrive in front of a Marshall and bingo! But just because we had classic rock and metal in mind, that doesn’t mean Diamondhead won’t hang with the impossibly tight and precise metal tones of today.  

 

Our good friend Rabea Massad demonstrates: 

The core of the pedal is a hard-rock approved amp-in-a-box. From its active 3-band EQ to the gain control’s ability to sweep from bluesy crunch to hard rock, it could very well be all a player needs. But flip on the onboard Saturation (SAT) toggle, and a genuine Seymour Duncan 805 overdrive circuit front-ends the pedal, delivering all the punch, cut, and added gain you’d require. On top of that, an independent (and foot-switchable) +/- 15dB variable clean boost is waiting at the end of the circuit. Not only do you have killer old-school metal distortion, but place the pedal in front of a clean amp, and a solo boost is only a toe tap away, 

 

  • Voiced for ‘70s-’90s amp stack distortion tones 
  • Perfect for use in front of a clean channel or as a stand-alone preamp 
  • Carefully tuned, active 3-band EQ  
  • SAT switch engages Seymour Duncan 805-style overdrive front-end circuit 
  • Independent, foot-switchable boost with +/- 15dB range 

 

Palladium Gain Stage: 

Palladium picks up where Diamondhead leaves off. Voiced to keep up with the impossibly tight rhythms, clear-as-a-bell string separation, and liquid lead tones of today’s metal tones, it is the next evolution in distortion pedal design. 

 

Keith Merrow demonstrates Palladium’s savage tones. 

Like the Diamondhead, Palladium features three individual gain stages that allow you to tune your tone precisely. The pedal’s core tone is a high-gain endeavor. There’s no denying that. But factor in its 3-band EQ, semi-parametric Mid controls, and Presence knob, and there’s plenty of flexibility for any application. In front of this stage is a foot-switchable, and finely tuned boost for adding copious amounts of drive, sustain, and grind. And because modern metal tones live and die by their bass-frequency focus, Palladium features a unique Resonance control that manipulates the pedal’s low-end gain. 

 

  • Voiced for modern, high-gain distortion tones 
  • Perfect for use in front of a clean channel or as a stand-alone preamp 
  • Active 4-band EQ with semi-parametric mid control 
  • Variable and foot-switchable boost placed before the distortion circuit  
  • Resonance control tailors the low-end gain for clarity and thump 

 

With so much control and their hybrid preamp/distortion pedal designs, cover band players, death metal studio junkies, and traveling session aces will all find something to love in both of these powerful pedals. 

 

For more info on these two unique pedals:

seymourduncan.com/diamondhead

seymourduncan.com/palladium

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