How I Use The MOD Duo Pedal

Having posted a new gear page the other day, I’ve been thinking how best to represent the complexity of how I use my whole set up. The plan is to blog about different aspects of it that deserve expansion, and then link to the these blog posts from the gear page. Hopefully it’ll shed a little more light on how some of this stuff works.

I will say that the fullest exploration of my pedal set-up so far is in two of the courses that I’ve filmed for – the looping one and the pedals and effects one. If you’re a member there, make sure you watch those lessons!

So our first post here is going to be about the MOD Devices Duo. For almost 20 years, my main effects processor was a Lexicon MPX-G2 – despite all the leaps forward in processing power and modelling technology, until I came across the Duo, I hadn’t found anything that felt like a significant step forward from that. What I love the most about the Duo is that the signal path is configurable in any imaginable routing combination. Here’s my main pedalboard: 

If you click on it and have a look at how the signal flows through it, you’ll see a couple of interesting things – firstly the octaver runs parallel to all the overdrive, envelope filtering and modulation – so the sub octave remains clean no matter what is happening to the normal octave signal. There are definitely times when running an octaver into an overdrive can sound really cool, and I have the MXR Sub Octave Bass Fuzz on my pedal board before the Duo to deal with that. Here, I have an amazing clean sub bass signal available no matter what level of craziness is happening on top.

Then, you can see that the Shiro shimmer reverb – bottom right, pale blue – is in another side chain, with a switch before it to turn the signal going to it on and off, but not to cut off the reverb. It’s set to 60 seconds of decay, so if I send a signal into it, then cut it off, the reverb continues to sound for a whole minute before disappearing. This means I can use it to set up big synth-like chords and then play melodies or chords against it, without having to loop the whole ambient part first. I can have it evolve over time, making for much more complex interaction – I can send individual notes from whatever else I’m playing into the 60 second shimmer verb, becoming part of the harmony of that ambient pad.

The only pedal after the Duo in my pedal set up is the MXR Reverb, which I actually use in a similar way to the Shimmer verb – I have it set up in ‘buffered bypass’ mode, so that when I turn it off, any reverb tail that’s current sounding will continue to play and gradually fade, and I can continue to play without affecting that. It’s like it has a parallel path within it, and I can switch the signal to go through it or past it. A very very useful setting that exists on a number of time-based effects pedals though not all.

I have other patches that use this process in far more complex ways, which maybe I’ll write about and screengrab in the future, but for now, hopefully that gives some clue as to what’s going on. The Duo offers so many possibilities, with its library of several hundred pedals that can be inserted into any board that all come free with it (there are a handful of paid pedals, many of which I’ve bought and are incredible, but the vast majority are free). combining them, and even being able to have synths in the same patch as direct signal processing, makes the Duo easily my favourite multi-FX unit I’ve ever used.

I control it with the Keith McMillen Softstep 2 foot controller, and have 8 buttons that I can assign to turn things on and off, as well as one continuous controller pedal for wah, volume and reverb level… (the Softstep is also controlling the Looperlative, and could also control any other MIDI think I might add to the set-up!) I’ve also got my old phone set up as a MIDI-over-USB controller, but haven’t got that hooked up at the moment! There are only so many things I can think about at one time!

I hope that’s a useful explanation. If you want to hear this board in action, check out my video for the track Divinity DT & Daniel  which uses this exact board, or the one for The Field Of Strategic Possibilities which uses it for the first 7 mins, before I switch to a different pedal board (you can see where that happens in the video 🙂 ) – both of these tunes, and 47 (FORTY SEVEN!) other albums are available from my Bandcamp subscription the moment you sign up… There’s an awful lot of applied signal processing to explore there 🙂

8 Replies to “How I Use The MOD Duo Pedal”

  1. Great article. It is a good idea to explain your gear a bit more — and I love that you started with the Duo (however, I am waiting for the other entries too). It is indeed an incredible solution to try out a lot of different pedals and their combinations. Sure, those are not the pedals of the big names like TC Electronic, EHX, or MXR but you don’t need to invest that much money to have that galore of pedals you use in the provided screengrab.

    And it’s interesting to see you’re using the beta Calf pedals. They have some strange look and to be honest I couldn’t find the pedals I was looking for because they look all the same 🙂

    Btw, why do you have only 8 buttons to control the pedals on the SoftStep2? Is there a limitation I didn’t see in these 2 days I played with this controller?

    And to everyone reading this article and considering laying her/his hands on a Duo: there’re a lot of pre-configured boards available online at the Duo homepage — and some are made by Steve.

    1. Some of the emulations of big name pedals are incredibly well done – worth looking for the plugins that have names that are obviously trying to avoid breaking copyright 😉
      The Calf plug-ins are all SO good, though the multiband limiter, which I used for a while, causes overruns so I switched to the single band limiter
      With the Softstep, I have two buttons programmed into the scene I use for the Duo that still control the Looperlative – so I can always go into overdub and play/stop the loops without changing scene… if I need to do anything more in-depth, I move across to one of the two Looperlative scenes, but it really speeds up my responsiveness to have those there alongside the pedal on/off buttons for the Duo 🙂

  2. Hi Steve, I saw your talk on SBL and was immediately fascinated by the mod duo. As a guitarist and bassist I have always invested a lot of money in certain pedals to get the sound you want and that went into the thousands. The Mod Duo and its successor Mod Duo X are definitely a worthwhile investment and space is saved with the DUO on stage and in the studio in addition.

    1. hey Detgyver! The Duo is an extraordinary tool, and I find that the possibilities for both the signal path and saving quite precise and complex combinations of settings as a preset makes it capable of many things that an entire set of stand-alone pedals would struggle at. What I like most is the combination of the two – using analog pedals with lots of knobs for their ‘playability’ and the Duo for that complex signal path and sonic interaction. I’ll write about this more soon 🙂

  3. Hi Steve. My gigs these days are pretty straight forward in a duo backing a singer songwriter. I use only a handful of effects. OTOH, in my jamming/looping/noise making world, I use every effect I can get my hands on. Recently I picked up a multi effects unit. While each (multi vs individual) has its own unique effects, there is a lot that is duplicated. So, I tend to view it as either individual or multi.

    Looking at your setup, you’re combining the two. I’m curious what comes first; what’s the foundation? Does the multi come first and then anything it can’t do, you supplement with individual effects. Or are the individual effects the foundation and then use the multi effect for what they can’t do.

    Is there a lot of duplication between the two?

    1. Hi Leon – I find that overdrives in particular respond in very specific ways – it’s not just the ‘sound’ but how they react to different frequencies and their dynamic changes. So each of the stomp boxes, being analog, respond very differently from the Duo, which offers an extraordinary range of overdriven sounds, but which I don’t really tend to use for copying my pedal sounds… There’s also the question of position in the signal chain – all the pedals on the floor are before the ones on the top of the rack, and the Duo, but the Duo is after everything except the MXR Reverb… That makes a huge difference to the set of possibilities… So the combination is additive, rather than a duplication or redundancy issue. Hope that helps! 🙂

      1. It does help, thanks.

        I agree on the positioning aspect. I can be huge. Even something as simple as a volume pedal. I found that when I put it first in the signal chain, it affected my distortion amount as I was hitting it with less gain as I lowered the volume. And when I put it last in the chain, the gain would be constant but my reverb tails would get cut off as I lowered the volume. Obviously, by putting the volume pedal after the gain but before the reverb solved the problem.

        I’m curious why you choose the Mod Duo as opposed to other multi effects like those from Fractal Audio, Line 6, etc?

      2. Partly the size, partly the versatility, being a more open architecture for the signal path. I’m also really interested in the future possibility of running all the drum samples off the DuoX as well, and ditching the laptop altogether… The possibilities for future development are WAY more open than for any other similar unit… (And it’s a quarter of the price of the AxeFX 😉 )

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