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I have been playing guitar and buying gear since I was 12 years old (30 years). Maybe I am dumb as dog shit but what the fuck is the difference between a distortion pedal and all these new preamp pedals? Aren't they the same friggin thing?
 

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Guitarded
Rig: Marshall DSL20
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the difference is, distortion pedals in general are intended to go in front of your amp and modern preamp pedals are intended to replace your preamp. Though beware, the term "preamp pedal" can mean two things. Its either a pedal meant to go in front of your amp to make your guitar signal sound better before it even hits the front end, kind of like a boost, OD or klon type of thing. the second and more modern meaning is a pedal that is meant to replace your preamp all together. you can get one that sounds like a 5150 or a dual rectifier. you could run this right into the loop return of any amp and it will supposedly still sound like a real amp, tubey swell and all. a lot of these are modeled after already widely used amps and work well if you want a really footprint. you could set up your whole rig with the intention of just going into a loop return thus only having to bring your pedalboard and guitar to a gig.
 

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Voicing and output levels, I'm assuming. Distortions are voiced to in front of an already-EQd preamp and have a weaker instrument-level output. Preamps are voiced to be EQ'd like an amplifier preamp and have a hotter line-level output.

It's why if you throw a distortion pedal into a power amp, it'll sound flat and low output (I know Ola did a video with the MT-2 into a power amp, but I've read the MT-2 is actually based on a Roland preamp) And if you throw a preamp in front of an amplifier, it'll sound harsh and either VERY loud or you'll get a lot of ugly clipping.
 

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Everyone above is right, but feel free to do things differently and make the sound unique. A Metal Zone for example is a distortion pedal that arguably sounds better as a preamp direct into an amp's effects return. Some pedals, like the AMT Legend series, have different outputs for running to the front of an amp or to the effects return, which shuts out the amp's preamp and replaces it.

If you have a distortion pedal or preamp, run it both ways and see what works. Remember an amplifier head is a preamp and a power amplifier that were made to work together, but that doesn't stop us from mixing and matching! Master of Puppets was a Mesa preamp section into a Marshall power section. I love experiments like this.
 

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So its a distortion pedal with slightly different EQ? Sounds like a distortion pedal to me.
I've fucked with several preamp pedals and find they definitely do the job better than the distortions I've tried. I've tried some of the AMT Legend pedals, the AMT SS30, the ISP Theta, and they sounded less like distortion pedals and more like actual preamps.

It also helps we're getting some very amp-like distortion pedals now.
 

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I Am The Tweaker
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So its a distortion pedal with slightly different EQ? Sounds like a distortion pedal to me.
Kinda sorta but in addition to the power amp trick, you can take a "pre amp" pedal and run it directly into a pa system or mixer and it should sound just like a mic'ed amp would. A normal distortion pedal will sound really fizzy and generally bad because they are designed to run into the front of an amp.

The sign of a true 'pre-amp' pedal is that it should have either a 'cab sim' output or 'direct out'. Good examples of true 'pre amp' pedals are the AMT Legend 2 pedals, Tech 21's "Sansamp" pedals, the new Mooer Mini-Pre amp pedals, etc.. Each one of them you could run directly into an audio interface/pa/power amp and it'll sound exactly as you would expect. With a distortion pedal, if you run it into a pc audio interface, etc.. without some sort of ir loader or amp sim after it, it's not going to sound very good.
 
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