The Four Stages of Gain: Seymour Duncan Gain Pedals

Overdrive and distortion pedals tend to multiply if left alone for too long. At some point, every guitar player looks at the pile of pedals scattered around the room, and can positively assure an unsuspecting wanderer that every single one of those pedals are completely different, and just because they might be the same size, or have similar words on them, that they are certainly not the same. Every one of those pedals might have been the key to tonal nirvana at the time they were bought, until we realize that one pedal doesn’t do everything we need, all the time. While Seymour Duncan makes a few pedals designed to change the gain of an incoming guitar signal, they all have very different purposes. Sure, there might be a tiny bit of overlap, but these are very different pedals. It might be best to collect them all!

The Purpose of Added Gain

In the beginning, guitarists had a guitar with a pickup and a small amp. Guitarists turned those small amps up, so they could be heard above a noisy swing band. Doing so, they noticed that the amp started to produce a thicker sound, and sustain was increased due to the compression of the signal being boosted beyond what the tubes could replicate accurately. Amp designers, heard this, and held their ears. “We need to build a bigger amp that doesn’t distort,” they said. “More power! Make it louder so it doesn’t produce that horrible noise!” They did, and guitarists turned it up louder. Pretty soon, that desired, sustained, compressed sound wasn’t able to be produced at a volume that wouldn’t kill small furry creatures and horrify time-travelling composers. Enter the first gain pedal designed to get a distorted sound at a slightly more sane volume.

Fast forward many decades later, and we can check out the 4 different ways Seymour Duncan approaches solving the problem of getting more gain into your amp.

The Pickup Booster and Line Driver

The Pickup Booster  designed to send a strong, healthy signal into your amp. It boosts the signal with a 25dB clean boost to make weaker pickups overdrive the input of an amp, or boost your signal for that rippin’ solo. Designed to be the first pedal in the chain, the Pickup Booster can take single coil pickups and make them sound closer to humbuckers by lowering the resonant peak.* It can boost the signal through a busy pedalboard, and the true bypass operation assures that you don’t hear it when it is off. The Resonant Peak switch can make your vintage single coils sound like either a vintage or high-output humbucker.

*The resonant peak of a pickup is the frequency that the impedance of a pickup is the highest. Pickups with a higher resonant peak are clearer and brighter- that classic single coil sound. 

The 805 Overdrive

Sometimes you want more than a clean boost from a gain pedal. Sometimes you need a source of overdrive, or a way to boost and thicken an already overdriven amp. The 805 Overdrive is ready to provide both. The problem with many classic grassy-hued pedals is that while they boost the gain and add overdrive, they generally scoop out the bass in favor of massive mids. The 805 solves this problem by having an active +/- 15 dB three-band EQ which can restore missing bass and tame overbearing mids. The result is that it drives the way you want, while not giving up any of the classic overdrive sounds you grew up with. The gain range is expanded too, so it can go from a clean boost into the distortion territory. You can read and listen to the 805 Overdrive pedal here.

The Dirty Deed Distortion

Sometimes you want a pedal that provides a very saturated distortion, and with that, we have the Dirty Deed. Covering overdrive, distortion, and fuzz effects, this hot number provides the classic overdriven tube amp sound to any clean amp. Thirty years ago, touch-sensitive distortion was only available in old hot-rodded tube heads or the newer boutique amps of the day. The Dirty Deed provides active treble and bass controls with 15dB of boost or cut, so you can dial in the right flavor of gain you need. This is all combined with the exquisite harmonics, touch sensitivity, and true bypass making the Dirty Deed the ultimate hard rock distortion pedal. You can read more about the Dirty Deed in this article.

The Palladium Gain Stage

What happens if you don’t have an exotic boutique amplifier with multiple gain stages, or need multiple gain sounds out of just one pedal? The new Palladium Gain Stage can act as a stand-alone preamp into a power amp, a perfect overdrive and distortion stage into a clean amplifier, or used to tighten the sound of an already distorted amp. Not only does it include the controls normally found on the front panel of many amps, it has a parametric mid control to dial in the right mid frequency to hit with its massive gain. The unique resonance control is used to dial in the right about of overdrive and distortion in the bass frequencies. If that isn’t enough, it also includes an overdrive boost as a separate footswitch which boosts the signal before the preamp. The Palladium Gain Stage’s three stages of gain will allow you to get the depth, touch-sensitivity, and feel that has been previously available only in boutique high-gain amps.

Do you like your distortion from an amp or pedals (or both)? How much gain do you like?

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  1. Just to clarify. Are you saying the Palladium covers the territory of the Pickup Booster, 805 & Dirty Deed all in one box?

    1. It doesn’t do exactly what the Pickup Booster does, but you can get Dirty Deed and 805 tones out of it, and a whole lot more.

      1. Thank you! Sorry for so many questions, but would/could you use the Pickup Booster in front of the Palladium for a lead boost or is the boost switch on the Palladium sufficient (I believe in one of the NAMM videos Dave Nassie said the boost was like adding an 805 in front of the Palladium)?
        Again, thank you for answering the questions! This is excellent information!! Anyway, trying to find the most versatile pedal for classic to heavy rock.
        All the best!

        1. I would just use the boost inside the Palladium unless you needed the function of the Resonance switch on the Pickup Booster.

  2. The demo for the Palladium is very one dimensional. I would like to see a demo that covered the various functions of the Palladium on a 6 string guitar like you did for the pup booster.

  3. Guys, I’m new on this guitar effects affair. Where exactly should I place the Palladium in the pedal board?

    1. There are really no rules, but you can put it anywhere before the modulation (chorus, flanger, delay, reverb). Right after the guitar is a great place.

      1. Great! I was considering placing it just after the Compressor followed by Distortion and Overdrive. When you say before the modulation, do you mean along, in first place in row in the FX Loop of my JVM410H? What about the Pickup Booster, where should I place it? Many thanks!!

        1. Right after the compressor. You won’t need the distortion or overdrive with the Palladium, though. 🙂

  4. Has anyone had a problem with the palladium not turning off? for some reason after a few seconds of plugging it in to power the red light comes on and the pedal functions fine, but i cannot turn it off? I’ve only had the pedal for a week and this just started two days ago.

    1. Contact us at the link at the bottom of This is not normal behavior, and we would love to sort this out for you.

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