Open blog about
The Sensei and The Motive Preamps
News, availability and advises from the builder.
Discussion about the module options.
Findings, presets and recommendations from users to users.
Clipping modules
Symmetry | SY

Four NOS silicon diodes. Two and two in series, back to back. Most headroom, pleasant compression and almost indistinguishable clipping from the one you already have from your amp. I have auditioned quite a lot of diodes from the usual suspects list, found in the today's commercially available pedals. While there are good combinations, they always sounded a bit to modern for my taste. After a few years I've decided to think outside the box, and try out some diodes that are not used in any other pedals where diode clipping is involved. As an addict of old fuzzboxes, I started to collect vintage diodes to, and auditioning them in the Sensei circuit. These are quite unusual, with very high forward voltage for silicon diodes, and this gives the clipping a very pleasant notes decay. I probably won't find much more of them but they sound so natural that I've liked them the most. I hope you will to.

Wrecked Asymmetry | WA

2 + 1 silicon diodes. While it has even more compression and grit, it will not overtake the instruments and the amps sound character. Just blends in well with the amp for that by now so stereotypical expression "amplike" sound. This is by far my favorite diode clipping combination for guitar and the module I will ship out the pedal by default.

Symmetry + Germanium | SG

Two of the same awesome silicon diodes as the SR (from series 3*), aided by two NOS Germanium diodes. Due to the Germaniums, we go down even more on the vintage sound rabbit hole. More compression this time, and a creamy sustain. These won't sound harsh even though the forward voltage of the Germaniums are a bit lower than usual, they balance out perfectly with the silicon diodes.


Scrambled Rat | SR

Finally a clipping module I can wholeheartedly recommend for the bassplayers to, looking for a bass overdrive sound. Influenced by two pedal legends used with success for bass, the Ampeg Scrambler and the Rat.
I've found this batch of NOS diode type that was used in the first original Scrambler and decided to test them in the configuration the Rat has the clipping. Almost there! I have experimented for some time a few options to give it a tiny little more headroom, and I settled with two resistors is series with both of the diodes to simulate a signal blend. BUM! It's there!
While not that aggressive as the aforementioned circuits, it sounds like it is a clean blend mixed in to about half. That's just enough to give a healthy amount of clipping and compression when you step on the second gain option of the Sensei set to more gain. Strangely, it reminds me of a third legend, a huge Bassman amp pushed to it's limits.


Bass Comp | BC

Strange NOS diodes from a forgotten past. The only information I could find about any circuit that used them, is a compressor device used in the 60's for radio broadcasting. Very different forward voltage compared to a typical silicon diode, hence the sound is very even for bass instruments. Slightly compressing but leaving through the low notes, giving more compression than sizzle for the highs.


The function of the clipping modules will be more evident with turning up the gain. With low gain almost not perceptible, just a bit of taste of compression, while as you dial in more gain, becomes more and more discernible.


Filter modules
DumDum | DD

I was not in search for any Dumble amplifier inspired sound. I was just looking for a good silent mid focused rock boost module option, which does not distort at all and just pushes the right middle frequencies to the amp. The sound struck me at first, making my fairly gainy JCM800 sound huge and in the same time cleaner. This is it! Tones of listening the videos about the amp and the pedals associated as supposedly giving you that sound, trying out the pedal on probably way to many different amps. After some small changes I believe I got there. No, a few bucks filter module won't make you sound exactly as a 100.000$+ amp that had who knows how many versions, but I still can't believe how a such simple filter can affect the timbre of a whole circuit. Try it yourself.

Pedal to the Metal | PM

This is the rock boost filter I was looking for as I've mentioned previously. The lows are more cut to avoid the flabbiness when the amp is boosted, while not as much dumped from the highs. Start with minimal gain turning up the volume almost to full tilt. This is a well-known trick for tightening the distortion of an already cooking rock amp. With the double gain, you can add two more channels to a single channel amp. For example a second one for rhythm and a third one for solo.

Link Wrath | LW

This is a combined filter and clipping module. Going on the same theme of cutting the bass content for the impression of boosting the mids, this time I have cut even more bass, but left the highs there. Instead of cutting the high frequencies I decided to clip them. With one NOS germanium diode this sounded to me, as vintage as possible giving the small number of parts used. The most asymmetric vintage amplike sound with the most bass-cut module that I make. Plug it in and play those two cords from a song that rumble.


Internal DIP switch
Turning them On will allow you to bleed more high-mid range gain into the second gain stage.
Playing with these can get you from the slightly mid scooped flat, to almost treble boost character.

Recommended settings:

- All Off. Dark sound. For lap steel guitar, slide guitar, or old-school motown bass sound. Will cover the interference between the strings nicely.

- Switch 1 or 1 and 2 On. Brightness is back. Bass preamp. With 1 ON for slap sound. 1 and 2 ON gives pick attack for rock and metal bass players.

- Switch 2 and 3 On. Guitar Single Coils will shine here. This is the default setting the pedal will be parting from me.

- Switch 1,2 and 3 On. Can give clarity for any dark sounding pickups, or more bite to a P90 for example. From country to rock guitar players.

- All In. Punch and bite for Humbuckers. The pedal will have the most gain here. An aggressive booster/overdrive that can be useful even in metal sounds territory.

Settings for Guitar
Hello there tone lovers, instrumental sound manipulators,

I will make a series of articles about settings I can recommend on the Sensei preamp. Two simple settings today, for the guitar players.

Rock

What is more typical for a rock sound if not a big loud British amp?
For this, Mosfet Clipping and the Full Boost Channel is selected.
You can abundantly hear pinch harmonics, flageolet tones in rock solos, hence the Harmony is turned slightly to the (+) side.
Zen is left on the "sweet spot" so you have the best balance between the "cleanup" reaction of the instruments volume knob and touch sensibility. Should be named Solo spot, but there is already a generally bad impression hearing that word as a name. (this is the part when you smile)
To avoid a flabby and sizzling sound, Treble and Bass are in Cut mode. This will allow you the cutting through presence of the mids as you turn on more volume. The gain is balanced this way so when turned up to full will sound louder but clear with good note separation.
To get the Sensei even more in sync with your instruments pickups, please also see the Internal DIP switch section above.

Jazz

No clipping selected as a powerful but clean sound is mostly preferred by jazz musicians.
Thick gauge and sometimes even flat-wound strings are typically used by the jazz guitar players, hence the Harmony is turned almost or fully to the (-) side.
Touch sensibility is an important factor of a jazz guitar, for this Zen is turned up to somewhere in the middle of the (+) side.
You do not need much gain for Jazz, hence Gain is not turned up very much.
To give body to the sound, Bass is Boosted but in the same time Treble is Cut.
Internal DIP switch is set to 1 and 2 ON.



Stratocaster Legends
I will take an almost impossible task today. Two legends with two so characteristic sounds, that has been analyzed over and over, until the deepest little details. The amps, the instruments, the whole pedal chain has been reconstructed. But from my point of view, there might be some details that have been missed. One of the most important is, how actually the instrument reacted under the players hands, with the rest of the equipment.
Let's see what we know about these two gentlemen, what we can hear in their music, and see is we can replicate a fraction of their sound with the Sensei preamp. Yes, Including those little secrets, which in the end are so indispensable for the whole sound character.

  • Both players mostly played strats with single coils. Set the Internal DIP switch 2 and 3 ON.


Jimi

- Best known for his fuzz sound into big British amps. To get us closer to the ripping full on tube amps, Mosfet clipping is selected.
- In those times the big full-stack cabinets had the duty of amplifying the whole show for the public, many times without any PA. Full Boost activated.
- The first secret. Jimi experimented a lot with strange picking techniques, even playing with his teeth, and often let the guitar feedback with the amp, as part of his playing technique. He had a strange habit, to actually use lighter than what it's considered normal gauge strings for the lower strings that were also tuned a half step down. This gives a somewhat flubby spank sound when the low tension strings are projected back hitting the frets, almost like the pull slap technique of bass players. Harmony turned to (+) side to help with this reaction of the instrument.
- Now the second one of the secrets. The vintage low output pickups he used, interacted with the low impedance input fuzz boxes, in a way of what it is called today as "cleanup". This is possible with the Sensei. Turning back a little the Volume from the guitar, can give back exactly the sound of the amp without the pedal. Pinch it a little up and there is the sparkle for the rhythm sound. Turn it back to full and you have again the ripping gain for the solo. His playing style is practically based on this dynamic you can have under your fingers. Zen is turned to minimum (-) side.
- To simulate the full on fuzz sound, the Treble and Bass switch is in Boost mode.
- Due to the two preset gain options of the Sensei, you can simulate the amp sound and the amp plus fuzz sound. Set one of the Gain low, and the other full on.

SRV

- Best known for his powerful clean sound, hence 0 Clipping is selected.
- Mr Vaughan used very thick gauge strings. To simulate this resonance of the strings, the Harmony is turned a bit on the (-) side.
- During his career known from the media and records, he mostly used bright amps, this is why the Bright Channel is selected.
- There is an ongoing vast debate of the origins of his instruments, but one thing is clear. He used vintage low output pickups, this is the reason why the Zen is turned slightly to (-) side.
- And now the first secret. Legend says, that he had his amplifiers modified to have the input cap replaced as to cut more bass than normally, so he can turn up the amp very loud without the sound becoming flabby. This is probably the culprit, that he was having full on amps but the sound was still dynamic and clean. For this Bass switch Cut is selected. I prefer to leave the Treble switch on Normal, but you have two more options to balance out your sound with your amp.
- Second secret ingredient. The TS type overdrive pedal he used, was mainly set as a clean-boost, not as an actual overdrive, just to give a volume jump during his solos. Well, you have two Gain options on the Sensei. Check out how I set it for myself, in my little escapades when I think I can actually try to play one of his licks.


I hope now after these four examples, I could give you some information to see through better the whole picture of what these many controls can do, on such a little box. I believe you can see the pattern now and you can tweak the box for your own guitar sound.
The next articles I will try to do the same for the bass players.

I wish you a wonderful day and remember to have fun playing your instrument.
How to use the Sensei preamp when a buffer it is needed before it's input
If you have a situation when a buffered device like a wireless unit or a tuner with no true bypass option is really necessary to be between your instrument and the pedal, the Sensei circuit will act a little different.
As the input where the Zen control is placed is no longer directly connected to your instrument, you will lose the advantages of it's function, just like with a classic Fuzz Face for example. It will act as a pregain, This can be useful to reduce the noise floor but it will no longer be the control for the cleanup and the touch sensibility. The Harmony control is also affected and will act as a treble boost.
To setup your tone in this environment, I recommend to start like as follows.
- Harmony at minimum
- Zen at maximum
- Clipping and channel switch on 0
- Bass and treble switch on Normal
With the internal switch set on 1 and 2 ON, the Volume pointing to the output sign triangle and one of the Gain at minimum, you should have a totally transparent sound when the pedal is engaged. The sound should be exactly the same as the sound without the pedal.

* From here you can boost or cut treble and bass, add in clipping or filter, switch between the channels, boost the Gain and Volume and on and on. Pretty sweet eh? No wrong settings or bad sounds with this pedal.
Take your time with the Sensei and tailor your tone.
How to set it up to a cleanup reaction of the instrument volume knob, similar to the well known fuzz circuit that is preferred for this function: <(click)
Firstly, the pedal must see directly the pickups of your passive instrument. To be first in the signal chain. Just as it is designed for, an external instrument preamp in stompbox format.

- Turn the pedal on.
- Set the gain and volume you want.
- Back off your instruments volume control to about 8.
- Turn the Zen knob anticlockwise (- zone) till you consider it is clean enough for your liking.
- You can compensate the treble lost from the treble switch and from the Harmony knob, or by simply switching to the Bright Channel, the switch right on the left of the Zen knob.
- Now turn your instruments volume back.
Bum!
You are controlling the pedal from your instrument.
How to test the impact of the Dynamic and Clipping switch on the sound. <(click)
- You will need a clean channel from your amp.
- Turn the Volume to 0 and the selected gain to maximum.
- Now give a little volume back on the pedal, so you can just slightly hear it.
- Toggle between the switch options while you play your instrument.
- You should hear the clipping differences and the feel on the pick attack dynamics.

This is the sound that will be mixed in, when the Volume is turned back on.
Charge pump noise

Pedals with voltage pump circuits like the Sensei preamp, might interfere with other pedals with similar circuit, digital equipment or older model circuits without a proper isolated power supply design. A good isolated power source is essential, otherwise you might hear hum or oscillation at the end of the signal chain.
If you do not have this option yet, you can go the easier way with the Sensei preamp, but you will have to sacrifice the little plus the voltage pump offers. You can simply remove the chip and set it aside. Be aware to insert it correctly, if you want to put it back later. There must be a sign, usually a dot or a "mouse bite" on one side of the chip. This has to point to the center of the pedal.
Charge Pump Direction
Fuzz stacking with a Motive
Personally, I consider that the most iconic amps to be pushed with a fuzz for that authentic sound from the records we all love are the Fender Brown/Black Face the later aka. Super Reverb and the Marshall JTM 45/100 the later aka. Super Lead. See? We only getting the Super sound here! :-)
Unfortunately, for some of us to have the proper tube sag that melts together so nicely with the fuzz sound, these amps have to be turned up loud. They need to be on the verge of breaking up. Now, for that to happen, you would need a studio, a live stage or a really good Motive. (pun intended)
Thanks to the tone stack of the Motive, I could tweak it to simulate the sound character of these amps, and the foot switch allows us to have both versions of the amps by pushing a button.

US
Scoop a little from the Mids for that characteristic sound.
Push it with the Boost Channel for that bold and loud American sound of the power amp tubes.
Put Presence on Glass and turn down a bit the Treble to give it a little " woodyness" and you have an F type amp sound.
It should have enough Grit for this type, play with the Volume from here.

UK
Boost the Mids for that strong and punchy sound.
The Bright Channel will cover that chime and upper mid range of the British amps.
With Presence on Normal, you have now the M type sound.
It should be loud enough for this type, play with the Gain from here.
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